Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon is taking on an issue that many Arizonans know little about, but that has a significant fiscal impact on dozens of school districts serving communities on or near the thousands of acres of federally-owned land and military bases in Arizona.
Rep. Salmon (R-5), who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is co-sponsor of a bill that would stabilize federal Impact Aid funding, which the federal government pays to schools on or near military bases and federal or tribal lands for the loss of state and local property taxes due to the federal presence. Minnesota Rep. John Kline (R-2), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, is the bill’s sponsor.
Proposed changes to Impact Aid in H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, would update the formula used to determine the amount affected school districts are allotted, provide a foundation payment to ensure funding stability from year to year, ensure districts receive payments in a timely manner and standardize eligibility criteria.
Arizona is the largest recipient of Impact Aid, which schools usually receive in the spring, to pay for their current year operating expenses.
Q: What led you to work on the proposed changes to Impact Aid
A: Impact Aid has always been important to Arizona’s students and school districts.
With thousands of acres of federally-owned land and military bases in Arizona, this funding is appropriate and a responsibility of the federal government to local school districts who take on the responsibility of educating federally attached students, without the accompanying tax base to support that education.
Like other states in the West, Arizona depends on Impact Aid funds, so it is important to ensure our schools have certainty for planning purposes, are paid on time and are funded at a fair level.
Q: How will the proposed changes help school districts?
A: Under current law a tax assessor in an eligible school district determines the value of the federal land within the district boundaries by evaluating what the highest and best use and price of the land would be if it could be taxed and utilized. This determination is very subjective and has driven up funding dramatically in some areas, causing other districts to lose out.
H.R. 5 would provide a more objective formula in determining these payments, and help to standardize payments from year to year with a more accurate foundation payment. H.R. 5 streamlines the ways these funds will be allotted for heavily impacted school districts.
Additionally, schools can continue to include children relocated off base due to construction-related causes for three years when determining their eligibility for aid.
Moreover, the bill simplifies the way such children are counted in the formula from year to year to ensure the school district still gets money for children who have moved off base for the above reasons, but are still being served by the district even after three years due to project delays.
(The interview was edited for length and clarity.)