Idaho County education and roads will continue to receive federal funding – at least in the short term, following a two-year extension of Secure Rural Schools (SRS), authorized by Congress last month.

SRS payments were initially established starting in 2000 to compensate several western states, including Idaho, for decreases in timber harvest receipts. SRS funds go toward county services, education, and environmental restoration projects.

What Idaho County will receive for its current fiscal year 2020 operating budget is pending. Idaho County’s total SRS payment in 2019 was $7.123 million, of which $1.454 million went to the county’s road and bridge department.

Out of that total $7.123 million, area school districts received the following: Cottonwood Joint School District 242, $408,156; Salmon River Joint School District 243, $101,254; Mountain View School District 244, $1,200,161; and Kamiah Joint School District 304, $247,009.

Forty five percent ($3.171 million) of the 2019 payment is distributed to the county’s 12 independent highway districts:

Cottonwood, $206,703; Deer Creek, $213,571; Doumecq, $254,324; Fenn, $179,471; Ferdinand, $261,697; Grangeville, $441,997; Greencreek, $184,709; Keuterville, $174,404; Kidder-Harris, $570,105; Union Independent, $250,440; White Bird, $328,194; and Winona, $105,387.

“Nearly two-thirds of Idaho is federally owned, which severely limits the tax base for roads, law enforcement and schools because federal lands contribute no property taxes. The Secure Rural Schools program provides critical funding streams for rural Idahoans,”  Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said. “A two-year extension of SRS funding is one step closer to a more predictable source of funding for rural communities and school districts encompassed by federal land.” 

Idaho Sens. Crapo and Jim Risch have been involved in efforts to maintaining SRS authorization, while working on long-term solutions to provide stable funding for dependent rural economies. The program saw a funding high for Idaho County, $10.144 million, in 2009.

The last time authorization for SRS lapsed, in FY 2016, federal forest payments to counties decreased by more than 80 percent, on average, according to the National Association of Counties. For that fiscal year, 2018, Idaho County received a $316,329, based on 25 percent of receipts of timber sales off public lands – a 95 percent decrease from its SRS payment ($6.250 million) the year prior. In March 2018, Congress renewed funding -- $6.262 million for Idaho County – followed in November with a one-year SRS extension to 2019.

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