News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Districts get annual payments from common school fund

Santiam Canyon school districts have received word from the state regarding this year’s Common School Fund payments.

Oregon’s K-12 public schools will receive a record $74.2 million from the Common School Fund in 2024, state officials announced March 20. All of Oregon’s 197 public school districts receive money from the Common School Fund annually. How much each district receives depends on the number of students served. 

The Santiam Canyon School District, which includes Mill City, Gates, Detroit and Idanha, is receiving $131,747 from the fund, down a bit from the $134,572 in 2023 and the $155,976 in 2022. The North Santiam School District, which includes Stayton, Sublimity, Mehama, Lyons and the North Fork/Elkhorn Valley area, received $290,645, up from $270,959 in 2023 and $241,057 in 2022.

“The funds received from the Common School Fund are integral to supporting our district’s general fund operational needs,” North Santiam School District Superintendent Lee Loving told The Canyon Weekly. “This includes various expenses related to each student’s education, such as instructional materials, technology upgrades, and facility maintenance.”

Loving noted “allocations from the Common School Fund vary, but our district has seen an increase in funds over the past three fiscal years. We proactively manage these fluctuations by closely monitoring the disbursements and making adjustments as needed to ensure our budget remains aligned with our operational requirements.”

Loving said that the school fund payments play a definite role in the district’s budget process.

“Budgeting for Common School Fund payments involves a strategic approach,” he said. “We start by using the amount received in the previous fiscal year as a baseline and then make adjustments during the current budget year as necessary. Since the funds are disbursed in two installments within the fiscal year, the first payment serves as an indicator of the total allocation. This allows us to make timely adjustments if the actual payment differs from our initial estimates.”

The funds are treated a bit differently in the Santiam Canyon district.

“Because the Common School Fund is a source of local revenue, it is included in the total formula for the State School Fund,” district superintendent Todd Miller said. “A decrease in local revenue would result in an increase in State School Fund dollars or an increase in local revenue would result in a decrease of State School Fund payments. Because of this relationship, changes in the Common School Funds don’t directly change our overall funding. (And) since these funds are part of the overall funding for the schools, they are used for staffing, facilities, curriculum and instruction and activities. We have seen slight continual reductions in the Common School Fund, but next year is projected to be higher.” 

State figures are up substantially. The fund disbursed $72.2 million in 2023 and $64.2 million in 2022.

The Common School Fund has supported Oregon schools since statehood in 1859, when the federal government granted the new state nearly 3.4 million acres “for the use of schools.” The State Land Board was established to oversee these school lands, which generate revenue for the fund.

Now valued at $2.3 billion, the Common School Fund is invested by the state Treasurer and the Oregon Investment Council. The Fund earned an average 5.4 percent rate of return over the three-year period ending in December 2023. 

“We’re incredibly pleased with the Common School Fund’s performance in recent years under Treasury’s management. These sustained returns will allow us to send a record-setting amount to Oregon public schools,” said State Treasurer Tobias Read. “We look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on students across the state.”

Today, approximately 681,000 acres of school lands in all 36 Oregon counties are managed by the Department of State Lands on behalf of the State Land Board. Ranchers and farmers, local governments, tribes, businesses, and others work with DSL to lease and buy lands, plan for future community needs, and keep lands healthy.

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