JEWELL - For years, plentiful timber revenues have allowed the Jewell School District to shine: Students take class trips and special programs for free, and the nearly completed new school required no extra burden on local taxpayers. It's been years since the district required substantial state support.
But will sales from the timber bowl surrounding Jewell School hold steady?
It depends whom you ask. Regardless, the Jewell School Board should be aware of some counties' efforts to rebuild volatile timber funds by reviewing Oregon's forest management plan, said retired forester Mark Labhart, chairman of the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners, Monday.
There were few questions posed during Labhart's presentation, which the board requested at its regular meeting in hopes of shedding more light on the district's primary funding source: timber revenues earned from harvests on local land managed by the state.
Labhart said directors should be concerned: After a long period of escalating returns, timber revenues the past three years have declined.
"It's a worry for me as a county commissioner, and it should be a worry for you," he said.
After six years of devastating burns that began in the 1930s, counties sought help replanting the land. Clatsop Judge Guy Boyington spearheaded efforts to consolidate the tracts under public ownership, and counties deeded land to the state in exchange for future logging revenues. It wasn't until 1983 that forests were mature enough to thin and local groups saw some returns on their investments, Labhart explained: "It takes a long time."
Of 789,000 acres of Oregon forests, Clatsop and Tillamook represent the bulk - up to 80 percent. Schools receive the largest cut from each county's two-thirds-share of timber sales. And in Clatsop, much of that money goes to Jewell.
The state allocates money to school districts based on the number of students enrolled with adjustments for students with special needs and experienced teachers' salaries, minus any local revenues the district receives, such as property taxes and timber funds. If local resources outweigh what the state would provide, schools get that money instead.
One of the wealthiest districts in Oregon, Jewell is among just three where timber yields more money than what's budgeted by the state - enough for the school to spend twice as much on each of its nearly 200 students as other local districts.
Even with a projected decline in timber revenues for 2007-08, from more than $4 million to about $3.3 million, Jewell expects to remain well-off financially. Revenues should still outweigh expenditures by more than $4 million.
But political and environmental issues continue to weigh on state-managed logging, said Labhart, and the future of county timber revenues remains insecure. He believes cutting back the proportion of land designated for old-growth forests could boost harvests, and that it would "not affect the long-term sustainable harvest of timber."
"I believe very strongly you can have both," he said. "The difference is millions of dollars to this school district. ...You need to make sure that revenue continues to come in. This is your cash cow."
In other business Monday, the Jewell School Board:
? Approved a contract with 2007-08 interim superintendent Gerald "Jerry" Jones. Jones will take over for temporary chief administrator Jim Mabbott, who will return to his full-time job as superintendent of the Hillsboro-based Northwest Regional Education Service District after working at Jewell since January for free.
? Heard from students who went to Arizona on a year-end trip for the Guaranteed Success program, an academic incentive program for students to complete homework assignments and earn good grades, and from students who went on a non-GS trip to Astoria and Tillamook. Teacher Don Anderson also presented information on the junior-high GS trip across Oregon.
The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for June 18.