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The news that President Obama signed legislation that included funding for the continuation of Secure Rural Schools came as a surprise to local leaders last week — but it was a pleasant surprise — potentially a million dollars each for roads and schools.
H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, included a one-year extension for Secure Rural Schools funding.
It passed both houses of Congress in September, and the president signed it Oct. 2.
Local officials had not heard the news, but it was posted on both the White House and congressional websites last week.
Plumas Superintendent of Schools Micheline Miglis said she was hesitant to speculate about what it could mean for the school district until she received official notification, but that it had not been included in the budget, and it would be good news.
Likewise, Jim Scoubes, the chief financial officer at Feather River College, said that the college had not budgeted the amount, which he would anticipate to be about $200,000.
He said historically the Secure Rural Schools revenue has not been budgeted.
“It’s one-time funds, so we don’t use it for ongoing costs,” he said. Typically it’s put in reserves and available for the board of trustees to allocate as necessary.
County Public Works Director Bob Perreault said that he didn’t include it in his budget either, because the funding hadn’t been approved yet.
He said he would also put it in reserves and use it to help balance his budget at the end of the fiscal year.
Perreault said it helped cover increased fuel costs in winter, and meet diesel fuel regulations.
The one-year extension means $33 million for roads and schools across the state. Secure Rural Schools funding helps counties that are dominated by federal lands, and have seen timber harvesting revenue slashed.
While H.R. 527 brings a one-year extension, Plumas and other counties hope that H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, will also become law.
That legislation would also extend Secure Rural Schools funding for an additional year, but it would also change how federal forests are managed, resulting in more timber revenue.
The measure has passed the House, but not the Senate.
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