U.S. Forest Service releases FY 2022 Secure Rural Schools payments

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Key Takeaways

On April 14, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced the release of $228 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments. Through the SRS program, funding will be distributed to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The SRS program provides crucial support to rural counties and school districts affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. For detailed payment information by county and state, click here.

Historically, rural communities and schools have relied on a share of receipts from timber harvests to supplement local funding for education services and roads. During the 1980s, national policies substantially diminished the revenue-generating activity permitted in these forests. The resulting steep decline in timber sales decreased the revenues that rural counties and school districts received from forest management activities.

Public lands counties rely on programs like SRS and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to help maintain their budgets while bearing the responsibility of untaxable federal lands. While these payments represent a fraction of what counties would collect from property taxes and timber receipts, they are critical for local governments to meet their governing missions.

SRS was reauthorized for FYs 2021 through 2023 on November 15, 2021 with the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In the last round of SRS payments in April 2022, USFS distributed over  $250 million to eligible county governments. Additionally, BIL amended authorizing legislation to allow for SRS Title III funds to be used for expanding broadband access in schools. Finally, while FY 2021 SRS payments were not subject to sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011, FYs 2022 and 2023 payments are each subject to 5.7% sequestration.

NACo will continue to work with our congressional champions to enact a long-term funding solution to ensure national forest counties can continue to provide essential services to our residents and visitors.

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