by Charlie Warren, Superintendent, Moffat School District
Governor Bill Ritter has signed into law House Bill 1250 to increase school district allocations from the federal Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act. This new law will provide school districts in rural counties with an equal voice in the negotiations for the funds— $19 million in 2008 with significant funds authorized through 2011. These federal funds are paid annually to rural counties with significant federal forest lands, but in the past, allocation decisions have been controlled by county officials.
In prior years, Colorado law mandated that only five percent of federal forest funds must go to schools, and in many cases counties complied with the bare minimum allocation to schools, without regard to the needs of school districts. Now allocation decisions will be made by three school district representatives and three county representatives operating with a completely level playing field.  This new negotiation framework will not only steer significant new funding to schools, but will also seek to maximize federal dollars to counties from Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT).  PILT monies are paid to counties to account for land that cannot otherwise be taxed for school or county benefit.
This bill resulted from the hard work of Moffat Superintendent Charlie Warren, Center Superintendent George Welsh, and the Center Board Vice-President Michael Lobato. They each testified in support of the bill and spearheaded communication during the legislative process. CASE also thanks co-sponsors Representative Michael Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs) and  Senator Josh Penry (R-Grand Junction) for all of their efforts. Other key support came from CASB, CEA, the Colorado BOCES Association and the Colorado Rural School Caucus.