Rural School Funding Faces Severe Cuts
(April 17, 2017 -- Jefferson City, MO) Approximately 100 Missouri school districts are looking at budget cuts as a result of inaction by Congress on the Secure Rural Schools Program. In 1908, federal lands began being removed from local tax bases. As a result, the federal government initiated payments to local communities to offset the lost tax revenue. The payments are based on historical trends of timber receipts in the community. Of the Missouri Districts affected, 14 received more than $100,000 last year and nearly 50 districts received at least $30,000.
As a result of Congressional inaction to reauthorize the program, on March 7th the National Forest Service issued 25 % payments of timber receipts to states based on the original 1908 Act. School district payments for 2016, which are based on timber receipts, are well below the funding levels that are called for by the Secure Rural Schools Program. These reductions are in addition to a cut of 6.9% due to across-the-board cuts to the federal budget.
For many school districts, the decrease and potential complete loss of these federal funds are staggering. For example, the Alton School District has seen the amounts change significantly in recent years. This year, the payment to the district is expected to be $133,267. It was $263,391 last year and was $414,440 during the 2008-09 year. As Alton Superintendent, Eric Allen, stated in a recent Springfield News-Leader article, “For one year, if we have to absorb this (loss) we can grit our teeth and go on," said Eric Allen, superintendent of the 675-student Alton district in Oregon County. "My concern is, if we lose this, it won't come back."
A release from the American Association of School Administrators stated, “Congress must continue the historic national commitment to rural counties and school districts served by the SRS program. Without immediate Congressional action on forest management and SRS, forest counties and schools face the loss of irreplaceable essential fire, police, road and bridge, community and educational services. Congress must act on short term FY 2016- 2017 funding for Secure Rural Schools and active long-term forest management programs generating revenues and local jobs.”