Idaho’s share from a federal funding program declines

Schools in Idaho’s timber country will receive a perennial — but decreased — infusion of federal money.

Idaho will receive $22.8 million from the Secure Rural Schools program, which is designed to offset the loss of revenue from timber sales on federal lands.

Schools receive 30% of the SRS money, or close to $6.9 million. The remainder will go into infrastructure projects, such as roads or bridges. Historically, most of the schools money has gone to districts surrounded by federal timber land — such as Mountain View, Kellogg, Salmon and McCall-Donnelly.

But Idaho’s share of SRS funding declined, and it’s not immediately clear why.

  • A year ago, Idaho received $24.4 million, so the current payment represents almost a 7% decrease.
  • Idaho also received a smaller share from a program that grew slightly. Nationally, SRS payments grew from $248.7 million to $252.6 million, an increase of about 1.5%.
  • Two other big SRS beneficiaries received additional funding: Oregon and California collected increases of 5% and 4%, respectively. Idaho’s program payments rank third highest in the nation, trailing only Oregon and California.

The SRS payments are based on a variety of factors, including a county’s federal acreage and its per-capita income. Idaho’s payments fluctuate annually, said Marissa Morrison, a spokeswoman for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

In a news release Monday, members of the delegation made no mention of the funding decrease. Instead, they said SRS is a vital program that should be funded permanently.

“We cannot continue to rely on the yearly votes in Congress to provide reliable funding for schools, roads and infrastructure repair,” Crapo said. “It is imperative we reach agreement on a self-contained funding mechanism.”

“The federal government has hindered timber production on federal lands for decades, and Idahoans continue to pay the price,” said Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. “Communities that would have once funded schools and infrastructure with timber revenue no longer have that option.”

“This critical program is a lifeline for Idaho’s schools and infrastructure projects and fulfills our promise to states and localities,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

Lawmakers in Idaho and Oregon have long pushed for a long-term SRS funding mechanism, but to no avail.

The year’s money should go out to Idaho counties in the next few weeks, state Treasurer Julie Ellsworth said Monday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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