‘Rural Schools’ Money Stretches County Road Funds

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Gila County officials are getting grief from residents because of discussions on using “Rural Schools” money for roads.

Gila County District One Supervisor Tommie Martin said 75 percent of the federal money for Rural Schools in fact goes to education, however, 25 percent of it can be used for a number of other things and roads are on that list.

“It makes our roads money go further,” Martin said.

The money comes through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides funds to replace:

• Property taxes when a county (or school district, etc.) has a preponderance of federal land; and

• Sales tax revenues lost due to the decline in timber and cattle sales, plus some for mining.

The other Rural Schools money is filtered through Resource Advisory Committees, Martin said.

It can be used for roads, watershed or infrastructure improvements on forest/federal lands. In the case of Gila County, the money is for its land in the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Martin said.

Gila County is part of the Eastern Counties RAC, which also includes, Apache, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo. The county must apply for a grant from its RAC for the projects it selects to pursue. There is a pot of about $450,000 to draw from, Martin said.

At its Jan. 4 meeting, the board of supervisors directed its staff to apply to the Eastern Counties RAC for money to double chip seal Forest Road 423 (also known as Cline Boulevard) in Tonto Basin.

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