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Rural towns get U.S. SRS assistance

RUTLAND - 45 Vermont towns with land in the Green Mountain National Forest received good news this fall with the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. The law establishes a new formula for calculation of state payments based on several factors, including acreage of federal land, previous payments and per capita personal income.

This new formula benefits towns that are now receiving an increase in yearly payments. In Vermont, the SRS funding is used for schools and search and rescue or emergency services. Payments are expected to reach the state to be distributed in January.

Because this is a reauthorization of a previous law, each town was given the choice to stay with the SRS funding or go back to a previous way of funding called the 25 percent fund. Since 1908, 25 percent of Forest Service revenues, such as those from timber sales, mineral resources and grazing fees, have been returned to states in which national forest lands are located.

The original SRS Act (P.L. 106-393) was enacted to provide assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests in federal lands. The funds have been used for schools and roads as well as to create employment opportunities, maintain infrastructure, and improve the health of watersheds and ecosystems.

In Vermont, all but two towns stayed with the Secure Rural Schools funding. Two counties, Bennington and Addison, because they were slated to garner over $100,000 each year, are able to put 15 percent of their funds into a county-wide fund for search and rescue or emergency services.

The U.S. Forest Service will work with the towns to talk about the potential of using the funds.

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