Region 8 Schools Cut Short - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Blytheville, AR--Tiffany Blankenship Reports

Region 8 Schools Cut Short

April 21, 2005--Posted at 6:40 p.m. CDT

BLYTHEVILLE--Several school districts are facing millions of dollars in loss after an overpayment for a federally funded program.

They call it an "accounting error" that will cost ten districts a bundle.

The districts are Brinkley, Blytheville, Dollarway, Eudora, Forrest City, Lee County, Osceola, Helena-West Helena, Parkin and Turrell.

It was a combined $11 million that the school districts were overpaid for a free and reduced lunch program, and we spoke to the superintendent of Blytheville schools, and he says it will cost his school a little over $3 million.

The overpayments allowed the Blytheville School District and several others to count 100 percent of their students in qualifying for the lunch program.

"We were told this amount of money was provided for the benefit of our students, budget this money and use this money," Blytheville Superintendent Bruce Daniels says.

He says that he asked numerous questions about the funding provided suspecting that the State might have made a mistake, but he said the response was very clear.

"There was some thinking that, that was not the intention of the legislature, but that's how it was passed, that was how it was worded and that was the interpretation," Daniels says.

But evidently that wasn't the case. The legislature then gave Daniels a much different instruction for next year.

"This year, instead of continuing to fund us at the 100 percent level, for the prevision two schools, the legislature said we're going to go back to your base year," Daniels says.

Blytheville school's base year percentage was determined by the number of applications received for the lunch program.

In that year, the percentage was at 71 percent which means that, that is what they will have to revert back to.

But Daniels said they can only suggest application, and not all those in need are forced to apply, therefore the percentage could be skewed.

"Did we prepare for this cut? You can never prepare for a $3 million cut, but we tried to take steps in a worst case scenario situation," Daniels says.

He says that the school intends to put the children first despite error.

"We're not gonna back up. We're going to do everything we can to hold what we have," Daniels says.

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