Gila County Schools Receive Over $1.5 Million In Federal Funds

Last year of four-year installment authorization

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Gila County supervisors distributed more than $1.5 million dollars of Federal Secure Rural Schools and Communities (SRSC — forest fees) funds to schools and roads, but this could be the last year the county sees these funds.

“This is the last of our four-year authorization for funds,” said County School Superintendent Linda O’Dell, “and the funding for rural schools has decreased by 7.7 percent at the same time.”

O’Dell and county management recommend how to distribute the SRSC funds to county roads and school districts. For 2012, the Payson Unified School District will receive $393,982.

First passed in 2000 by Congress, SRSC funds augment rural communities’ budgets that do not receive property tax dollars because they sit on national forest land.

Unless new federal legislation is passed, O’Dell said, this infusion of funds to cash-strapped Gila County school districts will disappear next year — a significant hit to school budgets.

“I ask schools what they use the funds for,” said O’Dell.

“Increasingly, they use it for basic budget items: textbooks, technology and salaries.”

O’Dell says she understands Congress has three bills designed to continue SRSC funding currently making their way through the Legislature, but only one has a 50-50 chance of passing. “This (money) is a substantial help. We have to stay on board for (Gila County students’) future,” said Supervisor Tommie Martin.

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