Public education — An increase in Portland property tax collections could net Newberg public schools $500,000 more than called for in previous projections; district officials cautiously optimistic

School districts around the state have been tipping their hats to Portland-metro area property owners after the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced Feb. 12 that rising tax collections there have fueled an influx of $98 million dollars into school funding projections for the next two years.

Thanks to the ODE’s equity formula for the distribution of funds, school districts around the state will share in the spoils from Portland, while some will be boosted by the extension of federal timber payments.

The extra funding will be spread over the next two fiscal years, with roughly $37.6 million being distributed to schools now and the remaining $60 million for the 2014-2015 school year, according to ODE estimates.

Newberg is forecasted to receive an additional $500,807, which district spokeswoman Claudia Stewart said the school board will likely use to boost its end fund balance, which was depleted as a result of corrective action taken to correct the nearly $1 million budget shortfall that was discovered in August and resulted in the resignation of former district finance director Nathan Roedel.

The recent audit of the district’s 2013-2014 budget put the end fund balance at $329,093 or 0.85 percent of general fund revenues.

Final school payments won’t be finalized until Monday and the numbers were expected to shift slightly as a result of ODE’s new poverty calculations, but according to Stewart, Newberg finance director Gwen Gardner is “cautiously optimistic.”

“I don’t think it looks like we’re going to go shopping by any stretch of the imagination,” Stewart said. “I think we are going to be trying to stop living on the edge. We’re not necessarily replacing people who have retired or left here. We’re not rushing out to spend money.”