The Dollarway School Board received training from Arkansas Department of Education officials on Tuesday, in a proactive step aimed at preventing the district from sliding into fiscal distress.

The Dollarway School Board received training from Arkansas Department of Education officials on Tuesday, in a proactive step aimed at preventing the district from sliding into fiscal distress.


Arkansas Department of Education Division of Fiscal & Administrative Services Fiscal Distress Services Coordinator Hazel Burnett taught about understanding budgets, recognizing codes and recognizing signs related to fiscal distress.


"Know your reports and their due dates," Burnett said. "The superintendent, board and finance department should be holding hands. If you are not holding hands, you are in trouble."


Dollarway is in the early intervention stage, as opposed to fiscal distress, Burnett said. To prevent a downgrade, she advised the board about conditions that lead to fiscal distress. These include a failure to maintain facilities, a federal audit exception, inaccurate financial reports, a failure to meet bid requirements, a default on debt obligations and a discrepancy between projected expenditures versus actual expenditures.


In discussing a host of steps, Burnett specified that she was speaking hypothetically. There would eventually be a notice in the newspaper announcing a district is in fiscal distress.


"If you file an appeal, you had better have your ducks in a row," Burnett said.


Dollarway voters elected a board of directors this year for the first time in more than two years. In June 2012 the Arkansas Department of Education seized control of Dollarway because of violations from a scholastic audit. The district was on probation in 2010-11 because a teacher who taught out of the teacher’s area of licensure and in 2011-12 because of irregularities with students’ transcripts.


Dollarway Superintendent Bobby Acklin has said that the factors that signal a move toward fiscal distress are declining enrollment, declining revenue and spending reserve money. In addition, he said that he does not know of anything that would put the district in danger of fiscal distress at this time.


Dollarway has seen a decline in enrollment and a corresponding decline in state funding. However, the state helped offset this loss with money from a declining enrollment fund.