May 31, 2019

Congressman Neguse Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Extend the Secure Rural Schools Program through FY 2020

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse introduced his 12th piece of legislation since taking office, the Secure Rural Schools Extension Act, bipartisan legislation, co-led with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to extend the Secure Rural Schools program through Fiscal Year 2020. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was first introduced in 2000 to assist counties containing tracts of federally-owned land that are tax-exempt. The program provides payments derived in part through timber receipts and other leasing activities within National Forests back to county governments where those forests are located.

“The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program is a primary source of funding for schools, mountain search and rescue, road maintenance and other services that Coloradans rely on. We are obligated to maintain this program which provides for these integral services,” said Neguse. “I’m proud to introduce this critical piece of legislation, and will continue to be a champion for our rural schools to ensure they receive the funding they need.”

“The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program provides critical financial certainty to many of the rural counties here in Eastern Washington,” said McMorris Rodgers. “This legislation will extend this program through Fiscal Year 2020 so that our rural communities can continue to fund important infrastructure projects, public education, law enforcement, and other essential services. Without this funding, people in rural, timber-dependent communities will get left behind.”

“As a rural district, Summit Schools depends on SRS funds to provide for the needs of our students,” said Kerry Buhler, Superintendent of Summit School District. “We greatly appreciate the bipartisan efforts for these funds to continue so that we may give our students what they deserve in terms of programming and support.”

“The Secure Rural Schools program helps counties and school districts deliver essential services to residents and visitors, including education, emergency response, law enforcement and infrastructure maintenance," said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties. "For years, forest counties have faced fiscal uncertainty due to federal regulations that reduce timber harvests on federal lands and an unpredictable appropriations process. We appreciate Congressman Neguse’s efforts to reauthorize SRS for another two years and urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

“Grand County is a rural community with 64% of its land federally owned,” said the Grand County Board of Commissioners. “We rely on SRS and provide 100% of its funding to our school districts. This funding is critical to the school budgets and programming as they continue to realize reduced funding and resources.”

“The Secure Rural School (SRS) funding is a vital part of West Grand School District's annual budgetary planning. The funding supports our efforts to provide updated technology access for all students and teachers, ensure safe and healthy learning environments, provide essential professional development for our entire team, and enable further maintenance and repair to school facilities and transportation,” said Darrin Peppard, Superintendent for West Grand 1JT School District. “As a district, we are committed to excellence in learning, leadership, and engagement for all. SRS funding gives us an important support in achieving our goals.”

“Being a district that has a resort (Winter Park) as well as bordering a National Park, East Grand School District faces some unique challenges,” said Frank ReevesSuperintendent of East Grand School District. “The greatest challenge is providing a high quality workforce in an area that has an extremely high cost of living.  Over the past few years SRS funding has allowed the district to complete many necessary one-time or on-going capital projects without having a dramatic impact on our general fund budget.  By doing this we have been able to make progress in trying to provide wages to our teachers and classified employees that allow them to live here.  We are still behind in this area but catching up.  SRS funding has allowed us to fix roofs, provide infrastructure regarding technology and increase the physical safety of our buildings.  SRS funding has also allowed us to purchase buses in our aging fleet.  In short, without consistently receiving SRS funding we would find ourselves making very difficult decisions about the health, safety and wellness of our students or the ability to have teachers and staff that can provide a quality education for our students.  Thank you for considering the extension and hopefully a permanent solution to SRS funding.”