|Secure Rural Schools funding reauthorized
Members of Idaho’s congressional delegation and State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth say Idaho counties will receive a total of $19.2 million in payments this year under the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Under Idaho law, 30 percent of the SRS funding goes to counties to help with schools and the remaining 70 percent is earmarked for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. That means Idaho schools will receive roughly $5.7 million, and Idaho roads and other county projects will receive roughly $13.4 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
The funds are administered through the U.S. Forest Service, and in some cases, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The totals are based on a formula that takes into account economic activity, timber harvest levels and other considerations that vary from county to county. SRS payments are critical to maintain education programs for many rural counties that contain federal lands exempt from property taxes. Idaho received the third-highest total in the U.S., behind California and Oregon.
“As the Treasurer’s Office facilitates the payments to Idaho counties, I am reminded of how important these Secure Rural School dollars are to local communities,” said Idaho Treasurer Julie Ellsworth. “I am appreciative of Sen. Crapo, Sen. Risch, Rep. Simpson and Rep. Fulcher, who continue to work to keep this vital program.
“This year’s payments are a welcome relief to rural counties that rely on SRS payments each year, but a permanent solution is needed,” said Senator Crapo. “Adequate funding for schools, roads and infrastructure repair will only be guaranteed once we can reach agreement on a self-contained funding mechanism outside the yearly votes in Congress, and we are working toward the goal of a permanent endowment.”
“The SRS program is critical for Idaho’s rural communities,” said Senator Risch. “Until the federal government returns to active management of our national forests, these funds will ensure timber counties can provide essential services, like education and road maintenance, until a long-term solution is reached.”
“I have long advocated and secured critical funding for SRS and PILT,” said Representative Simpson. “SRS is critical for timber counties that need the revenue that pay for critical education needs in our rural counties. I am pleased to see this funding I voted for being distributed to counties at a time that they need it more than ever.”
“The federal government controls 63% of Idaho’s natural resources, preventing these areas from generating revenue and taxes to support our rural schools and infrastructure,” said Representative Fulcher. “Until this land can be utilized, these payments are vital to the success of our rural communities, and I am pleased to see that they will be delivered.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways the Forest Service supports rural communities as a good neighbor," said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. "This support is part of USDA's ongoing commitment to work hand-in-hand with community leaders and to provide vital economic relief to local communities."