Sunday night, Congress negotiated a budget bill to fund the government for the next six months. One provision not included was a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools Act, or SRS.
The almost 20-year-old law sends money to rural counties with a high percentage of federal land, to offset the loss of property taxes that fund local schools. Counties like Valley County, Idaho, where the disappearance of timber industry dollars has made paying for county services a lot more difficult.
Since Congress stopped funding the program in 2015, Valley County Commissioner Gordon Cruikshank has had to make difficult decisions about how to pay for road repairs and teacher salaries.
“This year our county attempted to purchase crushed rock for road construction – we initially budgeted $300,000 but found it would cost almost $800,000," says Cruikshank. "Previously SRS would have allowed us to proceed, but today we do not have the extra money.”