Benton Harbor Area Schools continue to deal with deficit - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor Area Schools continue to deal with deficit

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Just a few years ago Benton Harbor Area Schools were facing a $16 million dollar deficit, but with a new superintendent at the helm they have been able to bring that number down.

"We're seeing some great indicators that we are turning the corner," said Dr. Leonard Seawood, BHAS Superintendent.

Tuesday night's Benton Harbor Area Schools Board meeting helped finalize a revised deficit elimination plan that the board feels will put them on a path to get out of debt. They say it's only the beginning of what's ahead for them.

"With the condition of our public school system today, I'm hoping that its the beginning of the end," said Barbara Bell, BHAS Board President. "I'm sure there will be a few more bumps in the road, but I am feeling confident that we're moving in the right direction."

One reason, they say they are more positive about dealing with their deficit is because they believe they are being much more judicious with their spending.

"This is the second year in a row that we had balanced our budget," said Dr. Seawood. "Unheard of in this district."

There are still plenty of challenges ahead in order for the school board to have the surplus by the 2015-16 school year.

The board says they will have to look at everything from staffing to program funding going forward. They're also hoping to get more kids in the desks at their schools, in order to help with their budgeting.

"Everything is based on enrollment and revenue," said Dr. Seawood. "That's where the rubber hits the road. So, that's really how we control our expenses."

If they are able to control their expenses going forward though, the board believes they'll be headed to their ultimate goal.

"We want to change the subject and the topic from finances to academic performance and improvement," said Dr. Seawood.

The board had to have the deficit elimination plan finished by July 31, so Tuesday was the last night for them to hammer this thing out.

The Superintendent says there are no immediate plans to decrease the amount of teachers. In fact, he says hopefully enrollment will increase enough over the next few years, that they will hire more teachers.

The school board says the deficit has been cut down by $2 million dollars since they started working on it a few years ago.

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