School district approves robust budget thanks to timber sales

The Neah-Kah-Nie School District’s (NKN) unique budget model is primarily dependent on property taxes and the area’s timber industry and this year things are looking good – knock on wood.

By Ann Powers

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District homeowners will not see a major property tax impact, there are no huge cuts, teachers will see a competitive pay hike and services and staff are being added, according to district officials.

“Basically there are no reductions and we’ve had additions,” NKN Superintendent Paul Erlebach said. “Previously we’ve had to make cuts, cuts, cuts.”

The district school board recently approved the $28.1 million budget for the 2016-17 academic year, up from $19.7 million last year. There’s no deficit and carry-over revenue is at an all-time high of $9.2 million (which will pay salaries through November), versus $6.3 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to budget reports.

Thanks to fiscal prudence, a considerable spike in the timber industry and an increase in area home construction, Erlebach said some of those additions include:
• Two percent teacher salary increase in this year, and 1 percent for the next two years
• Special education/student services director
• Lifeskills teacher 6-12
• Classroom teacher and an instructional assistant at Nehalem Elementary School (NES)
• Special education instructional assistant at Neah-Kah-Nie Middle School (NKNMS)
• Part-time state testing coordinator at Neah-Kah-Nie High School
• Part-time media assistant at NKNMS
• Contracted behavioral specialist pre-K-12
• Track and field improvements equaling $1.7 million
• Summer custodian (reinstated)

NKN Business Manager Mark Sybouts said the district is one of a select few in Oregon that does not receive funding from State Basic School Support, because it receives more money from property taxes and timber than it would from state subsidies.

About 70 percent of its support comes from property taxes and 30 percent from Tillamook State Forest timber revenue. The overall revenue forecast from property taxes and timber revenue is expected to increase from approximately $10.6 million to $11.7 million.

The district’s bond levy rate has not gone over 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value during the past ten years, added Sybouts.

“The school district has a history of being fiscally responsible,” he said.

Nevertheless, Sybouts cautioned that timber revenue is uncertain.

“It can be like an EKG,” he explained. “It’s so up and down.”

But forestry experts said the timber industry’s robust market should stick around for a while. School districts dependent on timber funding should see this source remain steady for the next few years, based on projetions.

“Export markets over the last couple of years have been strong, in turn increasing the demand for domestic logs, which is the category public owned timber in Oregon falls into,” said Ty Williams, Oregon Department of Forestry assistant district forester. “Typically an ODF timber sale contract has a two-and-a-half to three year time frame. This allows the purchaser to ‘play’ the market to some extent and try and time their harvest at peak market conditions.”