Rural Counties Worried over Federal School Funding
One federal spending program that supports rural counties in Utah was funded in the huge spending bill that Congress passed before Christmas. But another was not, and that has local county officials worried.
The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, or PILT, was funded in the omnibus spending bill just as Congress ended its session. There were some reductions, but not the huge cuts counties had feared.
But the Secure Rural Schools program was left out. It provides funding in counties with large areas of land controlled by the US Forest Service. Utah received more than ten million dollars from the program in 2013.
Piute County received about 300-thousand dollars from Secure Rural Schools this year. Commissioner Darin Bushman says they avoid putting that money into salaries, but it helps in many other ways.
“The SRS that we get goes directly to our county road department," Bushman tells KUER. "County road department, obviously, the objective there is to keep roads up for school buses, and we have a lot of dirt roads that school buses run on.”
Commissioner Bushman says the counties are left wondering from year to year whether these programs will be funded by Congress. He believes a better solution would be to allow Utah to control its own public lands so local counties and school districts could generate their own tax revenue.
Congressman Rob Bishop has promised to bring up SRS funding when the new session of Congress begins next month.