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Benton Harbor Schools Won’t Get Further Review

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BENTON HARBOR (AP) - The state said it has decided against moving forward with a process that could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager for Benton Harbor’s public school district, citing ongoing efforts to deal with financial problems.

The determination was detailed in a letter this week from state superintendent Mike Flanagan to Gov. Rick Snyder, The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reported. A preliminary review found Benton Harbor Area Schools under financial stress.

In the letter, Flanagan said an independent financial audit put the district’s deficit at $16.4 million for the 2011 fiscal year ending June 30.

Following the preliminary review, a team could have been appointed to look deeper into the district’s finances. Flanagan said, however, that the state won’t move forward with that process because of the district’s cuts and changes.

Flanagan said he reserves the right to appoint a review team in the future if the district doesn’t make progress eliminating its deficit. Officials with the school district must submit a new deficit elimination plan to the state by Jan. 27.

The city of Benton Harbor already has a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Benton Harbor schools Superintendent Leonard Seawood said the letter showed that the measures the school board and administration had to take in the past few weeks allowed the district to maintain control. He said the aim will be to eliminate the deficit.

“I think it’s wonderful, it shows that this hard work is starting to pay off,” Seawood said.

On Friday, the teachers union approved a temporary 10 percent pay cut that, combined with other concessions, added up to more than $1 million in savings. The school board approved the temporary contract during a meeting Tuesday.

The district and the teachers union also plan to continue to bargain over a permanent contract.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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