Impact Aid unknown

One month into the school year, Oak Harbor school officials have a huge funding question they’re trying to answer: How much will they receive in federal Impact Aid revenue this year?

To see where the school district stands, a delegation comprised of school board members Gary Wallin and Kathy Jones and Superintendent Rick Schulte spent the better part of last week meeting with representatives in Washington, D.C., to talk about the importance of Impact Aid money.

“It was kind of discouraging,” Schulte said in a Thursday morning interview.

He said between the growing federal deficit, Homeland Security costs and war in Iraq, there isn’t much room left for Impact Aid.

Although the representatives were supportive of the school district’s position, no decisions were made addressing Impact Aid.

“We still don’t know how much money we’re going to receive for the ‘04-’05 school year,” Schulte said.

The district budgeted to receive $4.4 million in Impact Aid this year. That makes up more than 10 percent of its $42 million budget. School districts are required to have a balanced budget approved by the end of August.

Impact Aid is given out to school districts that are affected by federal activities, such as Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

One thing officials are sure of, however, is they must prepare for a reduction in allocations.

Schulte anticipates local Impact Aid reductions from $200,000 to $1 million. The federal government isn’t expected to talk about Impact Aid until Nov. 20. Even then, there isn’t any guarantee that a final decision will be made.

There are two versions of the education spending bill: a House version costing $1.25 billion and a Senate version costing $1.23 billion. The Senate version maintains current funding levels.

“There is never a good time to cut Impact Aid funding,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen in a written statement. ”With the number of servicemembers that are deployed overseas, this represents one of the worst times for us to do so. While our military men and women answer the call of duty overseas, the least we can do is ensure a strong education for their children.”

Schulte said the district is prepared for an eventual funding loss in Impact Aid. As part of the budget process, the school district outlined a list of contingencies that won’t get funded if Impact Aid revenue comes in lower than expected. Those contingencies include delaying some technology and textbook purchases and reductions in building and maintenance budgets.

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