The Warren County Commissioners voted to take a percentage of timber receipts on the county’s portion of the Allegheny National Forest over Secure Rural Schools funding during their meeting Wednesday morning.
Glade Township Supervisor Joe Scully asked the commissioners if they received input from the Warren County School District about which option to choose from.
“Haven’t heard a word from the school district,” Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said.
Last year, the county’s municipalities and the school district were confident they would see more dollars if the commissioners selected the 25 percent of receipts option.
“The pressure last year was from the townships and the school district, it was almost unanimous that they wanted to go with the 25 percent timber receipts,” Commissioner John Eggleston said. “We’re staying with it, it’s not a set figure.”
Choosing the 25 percent timber receipts also removes the possibility of the Secure Rural Schools funding withdrawn through sequestration or budget constraints, Eggleston said.
“…they could take that away at any moment or if sequestration kicks in or they decide they are coming up on another budget decision,” he said.
An estimate for the funds provided from timber receipts was not available, Vanco said.
“I haven’t seen any numbers,” Vanco said. ” I have not been able to find any exact numbers, but I’m sure the payments will be less this year than they were last year under either scenario. I don’t think they did a lot of excess harvesting this year.”
When the Secure Rural Schools funding was presented as an option several years ago, the indication was the funds were put on a sliding scale downward, Commissioner John Bortz said.
“It becomes with each passing year an easier decision to make to go with the 25 percent allocation, at least from that standpoint,” he said.
Counties that choose Secure Rural Schools funding, or the flat rate, must allocate funds to projects through the Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) for the Allegheny National Forest.
Counties opting to take the 25 percent payment do not allocate funds to the RAC.
“The last time they reauthorized this (Secure Rural Schools funding) they set up these RACs, and so what we got directly was reduced and that money we didn’t get was put into this Resource Advisory Committee and they met and picked out projects to spend the money on,” Eggleston said.
The commissioners also approved to a $1,946 contract to run through Sept. 30, 2014 with BI Inc. for ankle bracelets worn by inmates in the work release program through the county jail.
“These are ankle bracelets that the work release people wear. They actually pay for this. We have to sign the contract and, of course, send the check out, but individuals on work release pay the monthly fee into the county,” Eggleston said.
“We’ve done business with these people before, this is not a new contract,” Bortz said. “We’ve been very pleased with the services they’ve been providing.”
The commissioners also made three appointments to the Conservation District Board. Barry Vanord will serve as farmer director for a three-year term, Richard Smith will serve as public director for a three-year term and Vanco will serve as commissioner director for a two-year term.