Payson District Seeks Share Of Bailout Money


Rural areas found a kind and wealthy benefactor in October’s bailout bill, and Payson Unified School District is angling for its share.

The school board Monday night passed a resolution urging county officials to adopt what they said was a fair formula for divvying up an incoming $2.1 million in federal funds that the county has designated for schools. The board also urged direct apportionment instead of handing the money to the county schools office to disperse.

All told, Gila County expects to receive $2.79 million in January from the bailout bill. Besides the $2.1 million in school money, roughly $558,000 will fund forest projects and the remaining $111,600 will fund roads.

The funds are expected to continue in an incremental decline until fiscal year 2011.

With so much money at stake, Superintendent Casey O’Brien said he met with county officials and other local superintendents to lobby for what he feels is a fair formula — apportionment based on enrollment.

The Payson school district has more than 30 percent of Gila County’s student population, O’Brien said. “At this point in time, a resolution to say how we feel is important.”

Last year, the county received $312,000, which the county schools superintendent distributed. Payson schools received $28,000 and Globe schools received $11,800. The Gila County Regional School District, which the county schools superintendent runs, received $164,000.

The money is part of the Secure Rural Schools program that provides federal funding to counties with large amounts of national forests to help them compensate for lost tax revenue.

The program nearly died two years ago, but lawmakers eventually negotiated a one-year extension.

Now, the county expects to receive full rural schools funding through fiscal year 2011, for a grand total of $9.6 million, $7.3 million of which is slated to fund schools.

Supervisor Tommie Martin has said the county will not decide how to spend the money until it actually arrives.

The county’s announcement came on the heels of a voter-defeated $1.4 million override for Payson schools in November, after which officials braced for a possible $400,000 budget cut next school year.

O’Brien has said the board may wage another override election next year.


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