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Wed, April 24

County anticipates reduction in forest fees

PRESCOTT ‹ Yavapai County's forest project program will end if Congress fails to reauthorize the Secure Rural School and

Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.

Congress enacted SRS, which county officials call forest fees, to help rural counties temporarily with the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal land.

Assistant County Administrator Dave Hunt said forest fees "are scheduled to sunset and the last payments were made."

Hunt said forest fees

"bottomed out" a few years ago and

federal officials adjusted the

formula to reflect the "high dollar years" amounts.

Traditionally, county officials would divide forest fees between roads and schools. SRS also

authorizes the establishment of Resource Advisory Committees for the implementation of forest-

related resource projects.

Hunt said county officials

allocated between 15 percent and 20 percent of forest fees, about $150,000, for forest projects. The rest of the money, he said, goes to roads and schools.

Hunt said failure to reauthorize SRS would result in the elimination of the forest projects. He said counties would receive forest fees based on actual timber sales.

County Administrator Jim Holst said the county coffers could lose about $650,000. He said the county received about $850,000 in 2006.

Holst said roads (Highway User Revenue Fund) would receive 75 percent and schools 25 percent of the remaining $200,00. This would result in a $500,000 reduction to roads and a $150,000 reduction to schools.

County School Superintendent Tim Carter said his office uses forest fees "primarily to pay the salary of a grant writer. The grant writer searches for grants that provide assistance to multiple school districts and charter schools throughout the county." Carter said he likely will eliminate the position if Congress does not renew the fees.

During the 2006-07 budget process, the Board of Supervisors denied Carter's request to pay for the grant writer out of the

General Fund.

Carter said that because the loss of the grant writer would affect every school district in the county, he will ask the supervisors again this year for the money.

Hunt said it is possible that Congress will reauthorize SRS.

"There are two approaches. The first is to reauthorize forest fees for one year. The second is the sale of Forest Service land to pay for the program," Hunt said.


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