FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 9, 2012
SCHUMER SECURES MILLIONS IN OVERDUE FEDERAL FUNDS FOR JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS NEAR FORT DRUM – INDIAN RIVER SET TO RECEIVE $3.3 MILLION, CARTHAGE TO RECEIVE $1.1 MILLION
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has secured millions of dollars in vital and overdue Federal Impact Aid for the Indian River and Carthage school districts near Fort Drum in Jefferson County. Due to unnecessary bureaucracy, the Department of Education was holding on to federally-appropriated funds that were designated to be sent to qualified Impact Aid schools. This money should have been sent to districts months ago so they could be used as previously intended. In a letter to the Secretary of Education, Schumer urged Secretary Duncan to speed up the disbursing of these funds, which are critical to helping districts plan and budget for the coming school year. Thanks to Schumer’s efforts, Indian River will receive $3.3 million in overdue federal funds, and Carthage will receive $1.1 million.
“Carthage and Indian River count on these funds to provide a top-notch education to North Country students, and bureaucratic red tape was standing between our kids and a brighter future,” said Schumer. “Today, I’m pleased to announce we’re slicing through that red tape and putting resources right where they belong – in Jefferson County classrooms. I thank the Education Secretary Duncan for making this a priority, and will continue doing everything I can to help our North Country schools, that are nearby the rapidly growing Fort Drum, deliver the education that our students need and deserve.”
“The news of the additional payments was a welcome relief at Indian River,” said Jim Koch, business manager for the Indian River school district. “In February and March of each year, we develop our budget for the upcoming school year, and having some degree of certainty in the cash flows is a critical component to ensuring that we have the resources necessary to provide all of the district's children with a quality educational experience. Over 65% of our students belong to families of soldiers assigned to Fort Drum, and we simply could not do our job if we had to rely solely on state and local resources. Receiving Impact Aid is critical to our mission, and receiving it in a timely fashion means that we have the funds to meet the expenses without having to resort to temporary borrowing measures. We truly appreciate Senator Schumer and his colleagues in taking the lead role on very short notice in making this request of Secretary Duncan.”
The Federal Impact Aid money that these two school districts receive is a significant part of their annual budgets and is the federal government’s assistance to districts that educate the children of our military personnel. These schools provide an excellent education to the influx of students from nearby Ft. Drum and would not be able to stay afloat without the funds from the Impact Aid program.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s February 3rd letter to the Education Secretary appears below:
Secretary Arne Duncan
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary Duncan,
As the leadership of the Senate Impact Aid Coalition and on behalf of federally impacted school districts nationwide, we are writing to express our concern about the current payout process of Impact Aid funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012.
We understand the budgetary difficulties our school districts encounter with Impact Aid as the only federal education program that is current-year funded. And we share in their frustration of delayed dollars when Congress does not adopt a full-year appropriations bill until after the start of the fiscal year. We understand how crucial Impact Aid dollars are to these school districts, including heavily impacted districts under 8003(b)(2), and feel it necessary to bring to your attention the current Impact Aid payout schedule for FY 2012.
In October 2011, the Department of Education announced that initial allocations for FY 2012 Basic Support Payments would be set at 65% of full payment. While many districts raised concerns over the low payment levels, districts were reassured that the 65% LOT payout was temporary – to avoid accidental overpayments until a final Congressional appropriation was adopted and to allow the Office to honor early payment requests from school districts facing cash flow shortages. Our school officials were told that the LOT payout would be increased immediately following a full-year appropriations bill.
Congress passed the final FY 2012 appropriations bill over a month ago; however, additional payments to all districts above the 65% LOT payout have still not occurred. According to the Department, the goal is to have 90 percent of initial payments made February 21 – after which the LOT percentage will be increased. At this rate, school districts will not see an increase above 65% LOT until mid-March to April. This is deeply concerning, as we continue to hear concerns from many districts struggle to maintain current operations for this year without full Impact Aid payments. Also, initial payments to Federal Property districts are not made until after Basic Support payments, so the current FY 2012 payout process dramatically delays payments to these school districts as well.
We know you and your staff are committed to allocating payments to school districts in an efficient manner; however, the current state of FY 2012 payments is simple unacceptable. We ask that you reevaluate the payment schedule and take all possible measures to ensure the Office has the necessary resources required to process payments in a timely fashion, so that our school districts can budget properly and receive the funds to which they are entitled. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration on this issue.