OSPI law change gives public education funds from timber harvest

Sequim School District could see a lot more green in the near future.

School board director and board legislative representative Jim Stoffer reported at the board meeting on Monday that the district could see state revenue funds restored after the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) adopted a rule change relating to the treatment of state forest revenues.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal recently announced the change in a press release.

“In the past state forest revenues were treated as deductible revenue when determining your district’s state apportionment funds,” he said.

“We are pleased to announce that we have sufficient funds to restore revenues deducted during the 2017–18 school year.”

Stoffer said Sequim School district could receive about $250,000 for the 2017-2018 school year that would normally be deducted from state apportionment. These funds come from timber harvested each year on lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resource (DNR) within Sequim School District boundaries. These forest-lands are managed by the DNR throughout the Olympic Peninsula and provide sustainable revenue in support of public services, such as public education.

“OSPI finally adopted the rule change to give districts that money back,” Stoffer said.

This rule change has been on the WSSDA State Trust Lands Advisory Committee agenda for about five to 10 years, Stoffer said. The committee, which he is a member of, consists of about 11 to 12 school board directors across the state with interest in timber harvest and school districts.

After the committee brought this issue to Reykdal’s attention and a public hearing was held, the rule change went into effect May 25 and affects 80 school districts across the state that have timber lands within their school district boundaries.

“Rural communities should benefit from timber harvests without penalty, just as urban districts get permanent benefit to their tax base when commercial property values appreciate,” Reykdal said in the press release.

He also stated that in the future state funds will not be reduced in the year following a timber sale. He noted these funds are highly variable from year to year with each timber harvest and that they are flexible funds, meaning the district can use them how it sees fit.

“It’s up to the school district as to how they use that money to the best of their ability,” Stoffer said.

“We’re a resource based economy and this directly affects us,” director Brian Kuh said.

Other board action/updates

Superintendent Gary Neal announced the district has purchased four portables from Port Townsend School District but is waiting for them to be delivered. He said the timeline for when the portables arrive has been pushed back to June due to a short time frame when the portables can be disassembled and delivered once school is no longer in session.

Board members developed procedures for letters of support or endorsements from the board, giving presenters 10 minutes to describe the program or event and make a formal request for action from the board.

A presentation will be made at one board meeting and action will be taken the following board meeting the request is made.

The board approved to purchase Board Docs Lite, a board manangement software system. The system costs $1,000 for an initial charge and a recurring annual charge of $2,700.

At first reading, the board discussed grammar changes to a policy regarding Collective Bargaining, stating the chief negotiator representing the district will be appointed by the board, he or she will advise and inform the board regarding negotiations’ progress, and will negotiate within parameters set by the board. It also states agreements made by the chief negotiator will not be binding until formally approved by the board.