Grand County OKs $227,000 in forest funds for schools |

Grand County OKs $227,000 in forest funds for schools

Tonya Bina
Grand County, CO Colorado

Grand County commissioners unanimously voted on Tuesday to give schools a greater percentage of Forest Reserve funds.

The decision could mean about $170,000 in additional Forest Reserve funds to the East Grand School District, and about $57,000 to the West Grand School District.

The money for East Grand closes the funding gap needed to meet the $500,000 community challenge in support of schools. The West Grand funds could help the district in its projected $250,000 to $500,000 funding shortfall next school year.

Federal Forest Reserve money is supplied to the county annually in lieu of property taxes to offset impacts from hosting public lands within county borders. By law, the money must be allocated to county road and bridge departments to help manage county roadways leading to public lands, and to area schools.

A 25 percent portion of Forest Reserves doled out to a county must be given to schools, 25 percent to the road and bridge department. The other 50 percent can be negotiated between the county and the school districts, according to county officials.

Grand County has traditionally given more than the 25 percent to support schools, splitting the money between West and East Grand school districts. But in their decision, Grand County commissioners agreed to split the money 25 percent for road and bridge, 75 percent to schools.

Even in voting for the increased gift to schools, Commissioner Gary Bumgarner said he was hesitant in light of the fact the county has frozen employee salaries and has decreased bonuses for its employees. He advocated school districts “working together” to find more cuts – his example was combining superintendents – and to educate the community about what budget hurdles the district has in state and federal mandates and school financing so the community can be involved in changing the system.

The county decision to increase allocations to schools was viewed as an “investment in community that will come back to us,” said Commissioner James Newberry. “Hopefully, the school districts will come together to look into something long-range,” he said.

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