Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester helped usher a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program through the Senate last week. The SRS program brought $20 million to Montana¹s rural forest communities last year. SRS expired in September of 2012, and without this extension, rural Montana counties would lose funding for schools and roads. Both the Senate and the House have passed the funding legislation and the President is expected to sign it. According to the Senators, the extension is fully paid for and will not add to the deficit.
“Our rural counties depend on SRS to keep teachers in the classroom and lights on at the Highway Department,” Baucus said. “These aren’t handouts, this money is rightfully owed to Montana counties, and Montana jobs depend on it.”
“Putting Montanans to work strengthening our infrastructure by building roads and bridges will grow our economy,” said Tester. “Montana’s rural communities depend on good roads and good schools. Extending Secure Rural Schools helps rural economies grow, and I’m proud to continue my support for Montana¹s forested counties.”
The SRS program is designed to compensate rural counties for the loss of local revenue due to reductions in timber harvests on federal land. The next round of SRS payments will go out in January.
Last August the Ravalli County Commissioners slashed several positions at the Road Department based on the uncertainty of the SRS funding. The exact amount of funds that the county may receive under the new authorization is still uncertain.
The Senators both say they are also working hard on reauthorization of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program as well. Ravalli County has benefited greatly from both programs in the past.