Yavapai County school districts are signing on to a new forest fee management association to distribute millions of dollars in federal payments to area schools, according to Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter.
The new association will control how millions of federal dollars will be allocated to schools going forward. The association replaces the Fee Advisory Committee, which historically allocated the funds and admitted the county superintendent as a member.
The superintendent cannot be a voting member of the new association. Yavapai College will also have no vote, a significant change intended to enhance independent decision making to jointly benefit school districts, according to Carter.
The new association will manage a kind of federal tax payment known as forest fees, which are payments due the county each year as required by federal law, Carter said.
Also known as payments in lieu of taxes, the federal program transfers a portion of all money raised on federal lands to counties in lieu of property taxes, Carter said.
The program is intended to make up for property taxes the county is unable to assess on national forest land.
It allows the county to receive a portion of all fees collected by the U.S. for timber operations, livestock grazing, mining, water, recreation and other uses of national forest land.
Forest fees to Yavapai County amounted to $680,000 last year. Previous forest fee payments, reserved by the Fee Advisory Committee, amounted to another $1 million or so.
Earlier this year, the committee allocated $1.4 million of the money to the Yavapai County Education Technology Consortium. The consortium will install and maintain broadband Internet for all county schools, Carter reported.
Most school districts have already signed on to the new, independent association, a move required to qualify for broadband Internet provided by the consortium.
Carter said he agreed with the decision to create a new forest fee oversight group even though it will not have him as a voting member.
Under the former committee’s management, the joint interests of the district benefited. For example, the committee used forest fees to pay for a grant writer who was available to all school districts to help on grant projects.
School districts received a combined $14 million from grants written with the help of the grant writer, Carter reported.
Payments in lieu of taxes to be allocated by the new association could exceed $2 million next year, according to Carter.