Impact Aid disappoints schools' chief

Oak Harbor School District is one of only about 30 school districts nationwide that qualifies for extra money from the federal government.

But the amount of money for schools recommended in next fiscal year’s defense budget might prove to be disappointing, said the Oak Harbor superintendent.

Public school districts impacted by a large population of military children and the loss of property taxes due to federally-owned land within the particular district qualify for additional money from the federal government.

Called Impact Aid, the extra money is provided by the Department of Education. However, in highly impacted areas such as Oak Harbor, supplemental Impact Aid is provided by the Department of Defense.

Congressman Rick Larsen’s office released information this week, saying that the House Armed Services Committee’s 2003 defense budget recommendations includes $30 million for Impact Aid. This figure is significantly lower than school districts had hoped for, said Rick Schulte, superintendent of Oak Harbor schools.

Schulte, along with representatives of other school districts throughout the country that belong to the Military Impacted Schools Association, met with government officials in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago to discuss Impact Aid.

“We had set our goal at $50 million,” Schulte said of the M.I.S.A. group.

The $30 million figure is the same dollar amount as the supplemental Impact Aid amount for this year. Of that $30 million, Oak Harbor School District expects to receive about $400,000, Schulte said. And, the district has yet to receive that money for this year, as applying for and being granted the money involves a lengthy paperwork process.

The proposed defense budget still needs to get Senate approval and then it will go to the appropriations committees. This leaves room for the supplemental Impact Aid dollar amount to change, Schulte said.

“It’s not done...the budget is preliminary,” Schulte said, adding that he hopes the $30 million figure will increase before the amount is finalized.

While Schulte said he is disappointed in the proposed $30 million line item, he is also grateful that an amount for supplemental Impact Aid was included at all.

“It’s a positive thing that they took the step to renew it,” Schulte said. Supplemental Impact Aid must be renewed every year.

As the district works on its budget for the next school year, Schulte said he is already plugging in the $400,000 figure for supplemental impact aid.

While Schulte said he is hoping for a higher amount of supplemental impact aid, he appreciates Larsen’s efforts.

“I don’t mean I’m disappointed in Congressman Larsen,” Schulte said. “He’s been a very strong supporter.”

Larsen serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Military Readiness subcommittee and is a member of the House Impact Aid Coalition. Larsen had asked the committee for $50 million for supplemental impact aid, said a Larsen spokeswoman.

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