Coordination is the key.
After weeks of trying to pin down a date, the major players with a stake in receiving funds from the U.S. Forest Service have a meeting date.
At 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, prior to its regular meeting at the Warren County Career Center, the Warren County School District board of directors will meet with the Warren County Commissioners and available representatives of municipalities which receive a portion of the money. They will discuss how the county will be receiving the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act funds.
Thirteen municipalities in Warren County receive at least some funds under the act: Brokenstraw, Cherry Grove, Conewango, Elk, Glade, Limestone, Pleasant, Sheffield, Triumph, Watson, Mead and Deerfield townships and Tidioute Borough.
According to Warren County Chief Clerk Pam Matve, the municipalities receive a varying level of funding.
"It ranges from $32 to $372,000," Matve said citing past levels of funding. "It just depends on how many acres (of national forest land) they have and how it fits in the (funding determination) formula."
In previous years, the county has also received some funds, though the maximum allowable under the county is only seven percent of a given year's total payment of funds.
An additional eight to 13 percent of the total can be used for, "projects that protect, restore, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat; improve the maintenance of existing Forest Service infrastructure; protect and enhance ecosystems on the national forests; and restore and improve land health and water quality."
The combined total funds allocated to the county, under Title II and Title III of the act respectively, must be between 15 and 20 percent of the total payment to a county in a given year.
The remaining 80 percent must be allocated as a split between school districts and municipalities to help fund schools and roads.
The county can elect to receive funds in one of two ways. It can take a flat rate payment or it can receive a 25 percent share of gross receipts from Allegheny National Forest revenue in the county. The Forest Service projects the county's payment this year to be approximately $756,476 if it chooses to accept the flat rate. The payment has continually gotten smaller in recent years. Flat rate payments were $807,607 last year, but have dropped from approximately $1.6 million in 2008.
"The total amount continues to drop each year," Warren County Commissioner Chairman Steven Vanco said.
The 25 percent option does not include any guarantee on the amount of funding. If the commissioners elect to take the 25 percent of receipts, none of the funding would be used at the county level.
At the meeting of the school board's Finance Committee on Aug. 27, district Director of Business Services Jim Grosch said he attended a meeting of the Allegheny Forest Alliance.
Grosch said he met with former Congressman John Peterson. According to Grosch, Peterson said, if revenues remain steady, the 25 percent allotment would total approximately $600,000. Grosch did not specify whether Peterson was referring to total payment to the county or the projected share which would allotted for the district.
School Board President Arthur Stewart said he believed the flat rate payment would be approximately 75 percent of 90 percent of last year's payment, or 67.5 percent. At that rate, the total county payment would only be approximately $540,000, about $200,000 less than the Forest Service projects. He said he expected the school district's share if that option is chosen to be approximately $350,000.
"That 25 percent isn't what it used to be either," Stewart said. "You take your choice. You take the 25 percent or you take the Secure Rural Schools Act. I don't even think it's a close call anymore. Twenty-five percent is now the gleaming choice, not just the better choice. This is not a major source of county funding, but it is a huge portion of our funding."
Grosch said he would request Peterson or a member of his staff attend the Sept. 10 meeting to give a presentation on the matter.
The county commissioners must make a determination on how the county will receive the funds by Sept. 30.