Date: 02/23/2009

BILL SUMMARY for HB09-1250


Votes: View--> Action Taken:

03:35 PM -- House Bill 09-1250

Representative Merrifield, sponsor of House Bill 09-1250, concerning the allocation of national forest land monies to public schools, presented his bill to the committee and background information on why he brought the bill forth, and shared a handout with committee members (Attachment D).


03:39 PM

Representative Baumgardner asked if this affects all counties. Representative Merrifield explained that it only affects counties with national forest land. Representative Baumgardner asked if it should be left to local counties. Representative Merrifield replied no. Representative Peniston asked if any one from the counties will be testifying. Representative Solano explained yes. Representative Benefield clarified that the issue is in state statute, and is why the committee is considering the issue.

03:41 PM

The following people testified on the bill:

03:41 PM --
Chris Mendez, representing Colorado Counties Incorporated (CCI), testified against the bill because he believes it sets a bright line rule for funding that is allocated on a complicated formula, and is a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex issue.

03:45 PM

Representative Peniston asked the effect that this has on a county budget that is several years in the making. Mr. Mendez responded that the bill could have a huge impact on current county budget planning. Representative Middleton asked how recently the funding has been reauthorized. Mr. Mendez replied that the full funding occurred for secure rural schools for four years, and Payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) reauthorized for five years.

03:49 PM

Representative Solano explained that she heard that there are 18 other states that give schools 50 percent, and only one other state gives five percent to school. Mr. Mendez replied that he has not looked at other states, and raised whether other states have the same constitutional budget constraints that Colorado has. Representative Todd asked if any counties give more than 5 percent in Colorado. Mr. Mendez explained some counties give more than 50 percent to schools, and some stay at 5 percent.

03:53 PM

Representative Baumgardner asked Mr. Mendez if the bill passed, would it affect jobs and roads in counties. Mr. Mendez replied that every county is different and it would be difficult to quantify the effect to jobs and roads.

03:55 PM --
Eric Bergman, representing the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, testified for informational purposes. He explained the difference between PILT funding and forest service money, specifically noting that only forest service money goes to schools.

03:59 PM

Representative Benefield asked where the money is coming for the bill. Mr. Bergman replied that it comes from the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination (SRS) Act. Representative Peniston asked if forest payment money is for schools and roads and bridges. Mr. Bergman replied that is correct, with one small caveat: under certain circumstances, some money must be diverted to Title II and Title III programs. Representative Massey clarified that even though PILT is not shared with schools, a county can direct that money toward schools, at its discretion. Mr. Bergman replied that is correct.

04:04 PM --
Sam Pace, representing Saguache County, testified against the bill.

04:09 PM

Committee discussion ensued about the possibility of schools losing money under the bill. Representative Massey asked Mr. Pace if Saguache County uses PILT money for schools. Representative Murray asked Mr. Pace if there was a way to amend the bill to make him supportive of the bill. Mr. Pace replied that he does not want to see a change to the current law because it is a good system as it is, but the bill should at least be amended to lower the minimum percentage allocated to schools.

04:14 PM --
Ed Norden, representing Fremont County, testified against the bill. He took exception with Representative Merrifield's remarks that the counties cannot make the decision. He shared instances where Fremont County used PILT money to aid schools.

04:18 PM

Representative Solano asked if anyone knows how much counties are directing towards schools over the five percent, and if Mr. Norden would be amenable to increasing the percentage to schools at all. Representative Benefield asked if Mr. Bergman could address the percentage question again. Representative Massey remarked on how Fremont County has used PILT money to aid schools. Mr. Bergman explained that there is a PILT offset, which until recently had been for every dollar of forest service money received by a county, it loses 60 cents of PILT money. Mr. Bergman noted that it is now a dollar for dollar offset since the passage of the federal stimulus package passed in October, commonly known as TARP.

04:22 PM

Representative Middleton asked Mr. Bergman to asked how the two funding programs, PILT and SRS, are interrelated. Mr. Bergman said he has not been able to get an answer from the federal government as to why there is an offset, but that it is a $1 for $1 offset because both programs are being fully funded. Mr. Bergman explained forestry money affects PILT, but not vice versa, and provided an example of how the offset works.

04:27 PM

Representative Peniston asked when the bill could be put into effect for the counties to plan for the change. Mr. Norden explained that he could not answer the question at this time. Mr. Bergman explained that the payments normally out in November, but this year the payments were not provided to counties until January,. because of the passage of TARP, and so counties are still determining how to handle the funding. He further noted the 25 percent counties can opt into SRS program, but once in the program, cannot move back to 25 percent. Representative Solano asked if schools are included in the negotiations of the allocation of the funding. Mr. Norden explained that there is not one meeting, but that schools are consulted.

04:31 PM --
Jim Austin, representing Custer County, testified against the bill and presented concern that the bill mandates a blanket percentage to counties.

04:33 PM --
Mike Blanton, representing Jackson County, testified against the bill because he believes that with the programs now being fully funded, the counties should be allowed to work with the new funding.

04:36 PM

Representative Solano asked about the four year funding for the program. Mr. Blanton explained that the funding is continued for four years and then needs to be reauthorized by the federal government.

04:37 PM --
John Galusha, representing Huerfano County, testified against the bill and explained that the formula would not work for his county because it has two school districts, and there is a split between the less affluent and more affluent of 60/40 percent of the SRS money.

04:39 PM

Representative Peniston asked if school districts can use it how it wants. Mr. Galusha states federal law leaves it to the superintendent.

04:40 PM --
Scott King, representing Huerfano County, testified against the bill.

04:46 PM --
Bruce Caughey, representing the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE), testified for the bill because the bill puts Colorado in line with half of the states receiving the money.

04:50 PM --
Charles Warren, representing Moffat School District, testified in support of the bill. He explained the challenges his school district faces in raising funds to meet capital construction needs.

04:56 PM --
George Welsh, representing Center Consolidated Schools, testified in support of the bill, and shared the funding difficulties his school district faces in keeping schools operational.

05:04 PM --
Lance Villers, representing Custer County Schools, testified in support of the bill.

05:06 PM --
Dale McCall, representing the Colorado BOCES Association, testified in support of the bill.

05:08 PM --
Jane Urschel, representing the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), testified in support of the bill.

05:09 PM --
Karen Wick, representing the Colorado Education Association (CEA), testified in support of the bill.

05:12 PM

Representative Merrifield asked to have the bill laid over. With that, witness testimony and discussion on House Bill 09-1250 concluded.