District’s Impact Aid future uncertain

More than 10 percent of the Oak Harbor School District’s revenue this year comes from federal Impact Aid dollars.

Superintendent Rick Schulte recently ventured to Washington, D.C. to get an idea of the future of the nationwide program when he attended a National Association of Federally Impacted Schools conference.

The school district is expecting to receive approximately $5.45 million in Impact Aid payments this school year. The district has a $43 million budget.

School districts qualify for the money if they are impacted by military bases, Indian reservations or low-income housing.

Schulte said during a recent school board meeting that the funding outlook for increased Impact Aid isn’t good as Homeland Security and the war in Iraq continue to be priorities for the national budget. Schulte said the situation could cut federal education support in general.

The good news is that Impact Aid funding remains available. The bad news is that Oak Harbor could still lose money to other school districts.

“Impact Aid shows no decrease, however, we could lose money to more impacted schools,” Schulte told the school board.

One of the biggest factors that could cut payments locally is the movement of more military personnel back to U.S. bases. He said between 32,000 and 37,000 students could be moving back from Europe and elsewhere.

While the Oak Harbor School District saw an increase of 50 to 200 students when VQ-2 moved to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station from Rota, Spain, last year, some cities near Army bases saw increases as high as 5,000 students, Schulte said.

He said that extra students elsewhere could produce a cut of up to 10 percent in local Impact Aid funding in coming years.

There are several issues that could further Impact Aid. Schulte said some school districts that receive smaller allocations are working to increase the money they receive each year, which could lower Oak Harbor’s payments. He said Congress is also looking at “special fixes” which are provisions that benefit specific school districts and that make up 60 percent of overall Impact Aid funding.

By attending the meeting in February, Schulte said he obtained Impact Aid information early. This helps him make estimates needed for the 2006-2007 budget.

The school district has until Aug. 31 to approve a balanced budget.

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