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State health department notifies charter school again

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Department of Community Health has sent another notice to Challenge Charter Academy about its delinquency of more than $100,000.

Last week, the department sent the school a notice to stop allocations of appropriations to the charter school due to delinquency in paying state health benefit contributions.

The school owes $116,477.57 to the department, it told CCA in March.

"There was a letter sent to the Georgia Board of Education giving notice as required by law to withhold all appropriations to Challenge Charter Academy, or to the local Board of Education associated with Challenge Charter Academy, until the Department confirms that all required contributions have been received," said Chris Schrimpf, communications director for DCH.

The letter is a formal notification to the state Board of Education that the school has failed to pay the required full amount, which is required contributions from previous years, not contributions for the current cost of insurance.

"Coverage for employees of Challenge Charter Academy will continue until the school is closed or until coverage is terminated for failure to pay the current cost of insurance," Schrimpf said. "The employees of Challenge Charter Academy and the Newton Board of Education continue to be covered through the State Health Benefit Plan at this time."

The charter school is expected to close at the end of this school year, after in March officials with the school decided to withdraw the school's petition that would have renewed the charter school for the next three years. In February, the Georgia Department of Education notified the school's foundation that the school's petition would be submitted to the state board of education with a recommendation for denial.

The Newton County School System's financial department had brought up concerns with the school last year, when it noted that the school has not budgeted for an increase in retirement and health insurance coverage over the next five years, and that it relies on Title I and priority school program grants over the entire next five years, even though they are contingent funds.

Additionally, the school reported that it does not hold any funding on reserve.

The school's CFO, Shanta Wilson, said last month that CCA has been paying $7,000 per month since September towards the outstanding health debt, as well as its monthly premium, so that the liability doesn't increase.

The state Board of Education is expected to discuss the matter at its next scheduled meeting, which is May 8 and 9.