The Benton Harbor School Board held a last-minute, closed-door meeting Monday afternoon to approve salary and benefit cuts for its teachers.
The meeting was called as the district tries to eliminate an $18 million deficit, one that could force a state takeover if nothing changes.
Monday’s vote was tabled until Tuesday at 12 p.m. after only six of seven board members showed; the missing link, Vice President Barbara Bell who was caught-up at work.
On Friday, Benton Harbor's Teacher's Union offered-up two large concessions. The first includes a ten percent pay cut for nearly 200 positions. The second calls for employee health insurance premiums being raised from six to 20 percent.
If approved, the district should save more than a $1 million in just four months. If denied, the State of Michigan could begin the process of a state takeover, similar to the appointment of EFM Joseph Harris at Benton Harbor’s City Hall.
"There have been a lot of meetings, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of back and forth, a lot of information, a lot of phone calls from teachers, a lot of phone calls from parents, a lot of town hall meetings that have gone in excess of two hours. So it's been a long-long process, but at the end of the day, we want to save Benton Harbor Area Schools.” School board president Anthony Jett said.
Unfortunately, this will not be the final blow; administrators are now expected to offer-up cuts of their own. However, those discussions are just entering preliminary stages so exact details are not being released just yet.
If approved, these employee cuts would be temporary, lasting from Feb. 1 through the end of the school year. At that point, new contracts would be discussed.