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Benton Harbor Area Schools Released from Consent Agreement

State Treasurer Nick Khouri on Nov. 9 announced that Benton Harbor Area Schools has been released from its Consent Agreement under the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act so greater emphasis could be placed on helping students and improving academics through an agreement with the Michigan Department of Education.

In June, Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education members signed the Cooperative Agreement with the state Education Department to provide leadership, academic and financial stability to the district. The school district is now overseen by its Chief Education Officer, Dr. Robert Herrera.

“Benton Harbor Area Schools has a plan in place that focuses on both improving finances and educational services through its partnership with the state Education Department,” Khouri said. “The Consent Agreement is no longer needed to address the financial emergency.”

In April 2014, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction concluded and reported to the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board that probable financial stress existed and recommended the appointment of a Financial Review Team.  Later that year, a Financial Review Team concluded a financial emergency existed in Benton Harbor Area Schools and Gov. Rick Snyder agreed with the team’s findings.

In September 2014, the state of Michigan and Benton Harbor Area Schools entered into a Consent Agreement to address the financial emergency.

Under the Consent Agreement, the Benton Harbor Area Schools adopted and implemented a financial and operating plan to resolve its financial difficulties, including entering into an agreement with Berrien County Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) for business administration and information technology services.

While Benton Harbor Area Schools has been released from the Consent Agreement under the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, the school district continues to follow its State of Michigan Emergency Loan Agreement. Resolution of the financial emergency was assisted by a state emergency loan.