Secure Rural Schools Program Defunded in Federal Spending Package

Last Updated: December 17, 2014

This article appeared in the December 2014 Rural Policy Matters.

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Many of the 729 rural counties that have relied on funding from the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program will have to make cuts to local education and road services now that Congress has eliminated support for the program in the end-of-year spending package.

The federal program has provided more than $2.8 billion to counties since it was begun in 2000. Last year the program distributed some $270 million to eligible counties.

SRS was started in order to help counties make up for revenue losses resulting from reductions in timbering, primarily on federal lands. Before timber harvests began falling significantly in the 1990s, local governments received a portion of harvest revenues. This income helped compensate for the fact that federal lands generate no local property taxes.  

SRS provided funding to communities in a number of locations across the country. However, many school districts that relied heavily on the program are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest where timbering had been a major part of the local economy. 

The loss of SRS funding is likely to be particularly difficult for these communities. Other means of raising significant local revenues for schools, roads, and other public services are often quite limited because of relatively low property values, high unemployment, and low sales tax receipts. 

Read more: (Includes an interactive map indicating counties receiving SRS funding in 2013 along with estimated amounts for each county)


Read more from the December 2014 Rural Policy Matters.