Dozens meet to express concerns, opinions to financial review team


Sad and unfortunate is how some people describe the financial situation for Benton Harbor Area Schools.

The district is more than $15 million in debt.

Michigan's Governor put together a review team to see if there's a financial emergency.

The review team held a public meeting Wednesday night.

The idea was to give people in the community the chance to express their concerns and opinions to the review team as they work to make a decision.

The review team has until August 22nd to issue its final report to the governor.

They can ask for an extension but one man on the review team says that probably won't be necessary.

In fact, he says a decision on whether the district is in a financial emergency may come well before the 60 day deadline.

Laura Montey graduated from Benton Harbor High School and now she works for the district.

She attended the meeting and says there is a financial emergency at Benton Harbor Area Schools.

She says, "Teachers are going out and they're buying their own supplies and their own paper. I know they go to rummage sales to get books and what have you in the summer. I know secretaries who keep bandages and hygiene products in their desk so when the students come in they can give them to them because there's nothing sitting there."

The review team says they have not sat down as a group to go over their conclusions which is the next step.

Members of the review team say this process is not designed for state takeover instead it's about working together with the district.

The review team met privately with the superintendent, members of the school board and others.

Lisa Gulley is a school board member and says, "They asked if we felt the school district was in a financial emergency and my response was I feel that we're in a financial disadvantage being that we have school of choice."

The review team says if it decides there is a financial emergency at Benton Harbor Area Schools it will be up to the school board to decide how to address the problem.

The superintendent believes of all the options a consent agreement is best because he says that will give the district more time to pay off it's millions of dollars of debt.

The review team says after its report is submitted to the governor a copy will be made available on the Michigan Department of Treasury's website so anyone who is interested can read the findings in detail.

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