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Rural School Act provides $1.1M to Tenn.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that over $300 million will be paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

For Tennessee, that means a total of $1,157,176, including:

  • A 2014 payment of $1,113,842
  • A Title II allocation of $43,334

Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.

The Title II funds are allocated to national forests for conservation work identified by resource advisory committees.

The payments from the Forest Service may be used for supporting public schools and public roads, for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests, and for county projects, including “Firewise Communities” programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests and development of community wildfire protection plans. These forest projects were reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and help provide jobs in rural communities.

Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees on national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties in which the forests are situated.

In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, payments began to fluctuate and drop significantly.  In 1994, Congress provided “safety net payments” to counties in northern California, western Oregon and western Washington.

In 2000, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act that provided enhanced, stabilized payments to more states through 2006. The act was extended for one year and then reauthorized in 2008 for four more years with a one-year reauthorization in 2012.  The program was reauthorized in 2013 to provide benefits for an additional year.

The actual amount of each state’s payment is determined by a number of factors written into the law, including how many counties ultimately decide to share in that payment.  Each county’s share of their state’s payment amounts can be found on the Forest Service’s Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/securepayments/projectedpayments.

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