By Nick Worth
The impact of the impending Catalyst Paper Mill closure on the Snowflake-Taylor school system remains uncertain.
According to Snowflake Unified School District Superintendent Hollis Merrell, the potential impact of the closure is impossible to determine.
“There’s no way we can quantify it,” Merrell said. “I know the newspapers reported a loss of $343,000 in (property) tax revenues, but the bigger impact will be if there are a lot less kids in our schools.”
Merrell said the district’s budgets are set a year in advance, so if there were a decline in enrolled students this school year, it would affect the school’s budget for next year.
In addition to the tax revenue funds, the school also receives money from the state School Equalization Fund.
According to Tammy Phillips, chief deputy of the Navajo County Superintendent of Schools, the amount of money the school receives is based on a daily average student count and also on an assessed valuation.
Merrell said the assessed valuation is yet another factor that could influence the school district’s budget in the coming years.
“A bigger impact over the long term could be that our assessed value will go down,” Merrell said. “That could affect not only the schools, but also the city, as well as the entire county.”
County Assessor Cammy Darris said assessed value would go down if a lot of people stop buying houses and leave the area to seek work, or attempt to sell their houses at a reduced cost. The resulting loss of property tax income would cause the assessed valuation to drop.
Merrell added that district officials have no way to estimate how many students may be lost because of the shutdown.
“We are certainly concerned for the families involved in the closure,” he said.
Merrell said that so far schools throughout the district have shown an increase in enrollment over the past two weeks, and that could help keep the student population up if some families have to move to seek work.
By Nick Worth