WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) have worked in a bipartisan manner with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to include a series of Impact Aid amendments to the Committee-passed Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will improve program efficiency by simplifying payment calculation, resulting in the ability for school districts to receive payments in a more timely manner.
Impact Aid school districts receive direct payments from the federal government to compensate for the federal presence within their school districts, such as military bases and federal land like Indian Reservations or federal grassland. In recent years, districts have experienced a delay in receiving timely payments, which puts additional financial burdens on already cash-strapped school districts.
Under current law, a highly subjective “highest and best” formula that attempts to determine the “real value” of federal property has bred a highly inefficient payment formula that is subject to local interpretation by assessors on the value of taxable property adjacent to eligible federal property. This legislation calls for a simpler formula that will remove subjectivity from the process. It would also prevent the need for the U.S. Department of Education to conduct regular, lengthy, resource-intensive audits of a school district’s Impact Aid application. These audits have resulted in delayed payments to every eligible district.
The amendments also clarify how children that have been relocated off federal property temporarily should be counted for situations like base housing renovations. Finally, the Senate Armed Services Committee-passed legislation includes the stand-alone Murray-Thune “Impact Aid Timely Repayment Act of 2011” (S. 595), which will require the U.S. Department of Education to make final payments to Impact Aid schools within two years of the funds being appropriated, rather than the current six years.
“The uncertainty caused by payment delays makes it difficult for school districts to plan and budget for their upcoming school year,” said Johnson. “The amendment I helped lead will address systemic delays in the Impact Aid program and expedite payments to school districts. This was the product of extensive bipartisan collaboration and will provide much-needed certainty to school districts that rely heavily on this funding.”
“These bipartisan, common-sense changes will make the Impact Aid program run more efficiently and will ensure that school districts with federal lands will receive their payments in a more timely fashion,” said Thune. “I appreciate the work the school districts in South Dakota have done to bring these issues to my attention and look forward to continuing to work with them in the future to make this program more cost-efficient for everyone involved.”
The amendments included in the Defense Authorization bill were cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The Senate is expected to consider the Defense Authorization bill later this year.