In 2000, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) to provide funding for rural counties and school districts to replace revenue from dwindling forest receipts due to a national decline in timber harvesting. When first enacted, SRS provided nearly $60 million annually to California’s forested counties, with half of the funding allocated to school districts, and half of the funding allocated to counties for county roads. SRS initially expired in 2006, and has been reauthorized multiple times since first enacted. Many of the reauthorizations have included program funding reductions.
In October 1976, Congress enacted the Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Act to provide federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property tax revenues due to nontaxable federal lands within local governments' boundaries. Counties containing National Forests, National Parks, lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, lands dedicated to the use of federal water, National Wildlife Reserves, and inactive or semi-active Army installations are eligible for Federal PILT payments. Under the current construct of Federal PILT, each year, Congress must continue to appropriate monies for the program. Federal PILT helps local governments provide firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search and rescue operations.
In March 2018, Congress enacted a comprehensive 2018 federal spending plan, and, as part of that plan, reauthorized two years of SRS payments for FY 2017 and FY 2018. The SRS extension provides California counties approximately $26 million annually, of which nearly half will be forwarded to rural schools and the other half for road maintenance.
In addition, Congress approved a $530 million appropriation for Federal PILT payments, a $65 million increase over 2017 funding levels. Much of the reason for the significant increase is due to a lack of SRS payments prior to 2017. The complex Federal PILT calculation formula accounts for an absence in SRS payments.
RCRC supports the long-term reauthorization and full funding of the SRS and Federal PILT programs. SRS and Federal PILT funding is vital for the nation's forested counties to continue providing critical programs and services to rural communities.
Staff: Paul A. Smith