School districts face funding cuts

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Photo/Renee Janes Many rural school districts are facing budget cuts because of the need for the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Act of 2000.

In the past decade, the federal funds payment history has continued to decrease. In efforts to reauthorize the Secure Rural Act of 2000, Alton R-VI School Superintendent Eric Allen has partnered with Bradley Crocker, of the Valley School District in Washington County, to bring more attention to this matter so schools do not lose funding.

Without the reauthorization of the act, that was signed by President George W. Bush, schools will lose funding that is received for the Mark Twain National Forest within the district.

The purpose of the act is to restore the stability of the annual payments made to states and counties that contains national forest land.

This would greatly affect the Alton School District because it has the most acreage, more than 106,000 acres, of any district in Missouri located in the Mark Twain National Forest. Some of the sources of income that help fund the district are: U.S. Government Treasury, mineral receipts, timber sales, campground fees and map sales.

According to Missouri Association of School Administrators, "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."

Inaction by Congress has resulted in school district payments, based on timber receipts, increasingly below the funding levels of the Secure Rural Schools Program.

Alton School District has been drastically impacted by this as funding received has greatly decreased through the years. The expected payment for this year is $133,267. A large difference compared to $263,391 for the 2015-2016 school year. In in 2008-2009 school year the school received $414,440.

"For one year, if we have to absorb this loss we can grit our teeth and go on. My concern is, if we lose this, it won't come back," Allen was stated saying in an article in the Springfield News-Leader.

When Congressman Jason Smith visited Thomasville, Allen addressed his concern about the district not receiving funding. "This is $140,000 to $150,000 we are not going to get this year and money we are potentially not getting any more will affect us," said Allen.

Smith addressed the concern and said it is a fight against city versus rural areas and the program has to be reauthorized and not refunded. "It has expired by statute so we have to reauthorize it, not refund. Right now it is a program that doesn't even exist and we are working on that," said Smith.

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