Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - September 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
County Urges Citizen Support
Houston County Courier - September 2008
By Sharron Randall
Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt urged parents of school children, interested citizens and other county leaders to ring the phones of United States congressmen in support of HR 6049, a 4-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act included in the tax extender bill which passed in the Senate by a vote of 93-2 Tuesday, Sept. 23.
For the 12 National Forest Counties in East Texas this was good news. The bill provides almost $5 million in funding every year, which will be divided between the 12 east Texas counties.
The House of Representatives will take up the bill this week before they go on congressional break so time is of the essence for supporters to make telephone calls to East Texas congressmen who are on record supporting SRSCA.
According to Judge Hunt, "We can't take any chances…we need them to not only vote for the bill, but also to work for us and secure other votes from their colleagues; both Democrats and Republicans."
In Houston, Sabine and Trinity counties, SRSCA funding makes up approximately 25 percent of the total county road and bridge budget.
Twelve counties and 52 public school districts in East Texas have lost more than 4.9 million dollars in federal funding.
SRSCA funding is extremely important to the rural school districts in East Texas as more than 9 million rural children attend public school districts, which depend on funding from SRSCA. It is estimated that 15,000 dedicated teachers and county employees either have or will be terminated if funding is not restored.
Economically distressed counties and schools are among the hardest hit. Here is a breakdown of how much each county stands to lose in annual funding "if we don’t' get this done," said Hunt.
Houston County's share is $986,963, Sabine County $921,878, Trinity County $708,381, Shelby County $573,569, San Augustine County $372,917 and San Jacinto County $326,181.
These figures are based on the median household income and persons below poverty level according to the 2004 US Census Bureau data.
SRSCA represents a 100-year-old commitment from the federal government to rural counties and schools. The four national forests in East Texas are comprised of 634,912 acres of federally owned land, which was removed from the local tax rolls.