The Benton Harbor School District is once again facing a major budget deficit and now, also, a state takeover. A 30-day review of Benton Harbor schools by the state starts Monday.
The district is facing a massive budget deficit and is going to have to find a way to cut nearly half its general fund. The projected deficit this year is $18 million.
Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Benton Harbor Superintendent Leonard Seawood earlier this month telling him a 30-day review will start Monday. If the state needs to step in – it could appoint an emergency financial manager.
The district has been on the state's radar for at least the last year – with underperforming schools and dropping enrollment.
That dropping enrollment is just one of the reasons the school has been finding itself with major deficits every year.
Last year, the district was $16 million in the hole.
In July, Seawood and the school board were able to agree on a plan to eliminate that debt through teacher layoffs and closing down some schools.
Seawood said the plan would also improve education.
In July, school board members said they would be holding the district accountable financially and would monitor the progress of education as well.
"The state has passed a new law which mandates certain criteria and we have to hold the superintendent accountable for, and a lot has to do with achievement and progress," said Martha Momany, who is on the school board.
And while the state approved a deficit elimination plan earlier this year, this new $18 million deficit projection has raised red flags again.
Seawood is holding a town hall meeting tomorrow evening from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the high school. On the agenda: The budget deficit, major restructuring, potential consolidation of schools and alternative use of vacant school buildings. The superintendent will be outlining the next steps for the district and there will be time for questions and answers.