Nine districts declared in financial distress

(June 15, 2004) — (Little Rock-AP) -- Seven Arkansas school districts involved in recent mergers approved by the state Education Board are among nine districts designated by the same board as being in financial distress. The designations were the first made under a new, tougher school accountability law. The measure authorizes swifter state takeover of troubled local schools. The nine districts made the list because of a variety of money problems. Most of the money difficulties are rooted in declining balances and some because of poor financial management. The nine districts designated as financially distressed are Augusta, Crossett, Greenland, Heber Springs, Jasper, Lakeside in Garland County, Lake View, Oark and St. Joe. The Earle School District, also had been targeted for fiscal distress. But the state board approved the district's appeal of the designation after school officials provided sufficient documentation that it had met reporting requirements regarding school repairs. The nine designated districts did not dispute the state findings that led to them being declared in fiscal distress.