Federal funding program that benefits Summit County schools is renewed
FRISCO — A federal funding program that has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to Summit County and Summit School District is on its way to being extended for another two years. The Secure Rural Schools Extension Act would see the continuation of federal funding assistance — for schools and other uses — to rural counties that have federally owned land within their boundaries.
The bill was introduced in May by Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, and co-led by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Washington. The bill, extending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act legislation passed in 2000, was rolled into the end-of-year “minibus” appropriations bills passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives this week and is on its way to be signed into law by the president.
In 2018, the program provided $2 million in funds to the 2nd Congressional District, with Summit County getting $816,432 in assistance. Summit School District received $400,000 of that amount, according to district business services coordinator Kara Drake.
District Superintendent Kerry Buhler said that the program money is a source of funding for the district’s $40 million general fund budget. Buhler said the money is important enough that the district builds it into its budget annually and that its loss would force the district to make significant cutbacks.
“It helps us provide the education our kids deserve and also allows us to support our staff in a way that they can live here and be there for our kids,” Buhler said. “Without it, we would have to figure out where to cut in our budget as we would have $400,000 less to spend on programming.”
The funding is derived by timber receipts and other leasing activities within national forests, with the funds going back to the counties where the forests are located. Aside from funding schools, the program is also a primary source of funding for mountain search and rescue groups, road maintenance and other county uses.
“The county has been very supportive of the program over the years, and we have written letters to our federal representatives to support its renewal package, so we are excited to see it continue,” County Manager Scott Vargo said.
Neguse touted his introduction of the extension, which will provide assistance to rural communities across the state and nation along with Summit County, as well as his strong push to get the bill’s language into the minibus package, the passage of which averted yet another government shutdown.
“This will make a critical difference, not just in Summit but across the 2nd (Congressional) district in Grand, Eagle and many other counties,” Neguse said.
While Neguse is proud of the work he did to get the extension across the finish line, he is more tactful in talking about the impeachment of Donald Trump on Wednesday, Dec. 18. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Neguse was instrumental in the drafting of articles of impeachment that passed in the House.
When asked what he felt about the dichotomy between impeaching the president one day while passing bipartisan legislation and spending bills on another, Neguse said the actions were not mutually exclusive and that he does not believe the divisions between parties had run so deep that work to help people can’t get done in Congress.
“I believe Congress can both legislate for the common good and honor its Constitutional obligations under Article I to hold this administration accountable, which is part of our duty to uphold our oaths of office,” Neguse said. “At the end of the day, my focus will always be honoring that oath and delivering action to my constituents and solving the tough problems we have in the district and across the country.”
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