Benton Harbor school officials unveil plan to wipe out $7 million in debts by 2026

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Benton Harbor High School // WSBT 22

On the first day of classes, the Benton Harbor School Board is working toward a plan keep the high school open and wipe out millions in debt.

The board mentioned the plan only briefly at Tuesday’s meeting, but even now some in the community are skeptical.

The plan is to erase the school’s debt in about seven years by 2026. The board had been working on this in recent months and finally presented a plan on Sept. 3, 2019.

But to some, $18 million dollars in just seven years sounded too good to be true, especially since the district is currently without a superintendent.

While the job vacancy is being addressed, the debt is looming large over the district.

“They come and they’re going to be using the same tools they use last year to get rid of the debt in 2026,” Rev. Edward Pinkney, God Household of Faith, said. “That is not going to work.”

Benton Harbor School Board Vice President Joseph Taylor wouldn't say how they would wipe out the debt, but said it's a good plan.

“It’s always about a budget,” said Taylor. “So when you look at your budget today or our budget today, then we just have to make sure that we stick to it so we can reach that 2026 timeframe.”

The state has proposed closing the high school next year in order to help reduce the debt, but the board is adamant they won't allow that to happen.

The board is also in a back-and-forth with the state on the creation of an advisory committee to address the problems at Benton Harbor Schools and said the state needs to reassure Benton Harbor residents before anything moves forward.

“They need to reassure the district in the community that will be here and will be viable,” said Taylor.

Benton Harbor Board President Stephen Mitchell said they will be voting on the debt resolution plan and advisory committee resolution at the regular board meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 10.