Commissioners vent to congressional rep about Rural Schools program

When Joe Fadden, senior field representative for Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-5), attended a meeting of the Warren County Commissioners, he didn’t have anything in particular for them.

The commissioners had some issues for Fadden, though.

They asked that Thompson look into amending the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act first passed in 2000.

Commissioner John Eggleston said the commissioners have had to make hard choices regarding which funding stream – the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) rate or a percentage of the timber receipts – they would select for the county, school district, and municipalities.

For years, the commissioners have been confident that the percentage would add up to more money… but not for the county government.

“We chose to go with the timber receipts because it benefits our school district and municipalities more,” Eggleston said.

It was a selfless decision.

“We don’t get anything… not one dime,” Eggleston said. “We’re out of the loop on timber receipts.”

Had they chosen the SRS funding, fewer dollars would have come to the county to be divvied up, but the commissioners would have gotten a piece of the pie.

In the past, the commissioners received as much as $300,000 in SRS funding. “It helped offset our 911 and some of our other emergency services,” Commissioner John Bortz said.

Almost every year the program has been reauthorized, the funding level has been reduced.

Sometimes, the commissioners took factors other than money into their decision. “It got to the point where – do we favor funding or do we want to see more cutting on the national forest,” Bortz said.

Then the funding for timber receipts cut out the commissioners, but was a better deal for the other governments.

“We fell on our sword – financially speaking – in the interest of making sure our school districts and our municipalities get more bang for their buck,” Bortz said.

“It seems unfair to me that if we choose one way or the other we could be out of the loop,” Eggleston said to Fadden. “See that it’s included in there that we get something either way.”

“We don’t like falling on our sword,” Bortz said. “It hurts.”