Livingston Enterprise: Federal funds allocated to Park County for schools, roads

by Sean Batura

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds have been secured for Park County road projects and schools.

The funds were recently reauthorized through the efforts of Sen. Jon Tester, four Democrats and five other Republicans in the U.S. Senate as part of negotiating the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

“The total amount distributed (for the county) is $380,406.56 between Roads and Schools,” reads a Wednesday email from Park County Finance Director Erica Strickland. “The school funds are split at a higher level than at an individual school level, and the funds go out to schools to fund budgeted transportation and retirement expenditures. Most of the school funding goes to the equalization mills.”

The county’s allocation was among the $15,919,854 Tester secured for Montana as part of the Secure Rural Schools program, which comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.

“The Secure Rural Schools program is run through the Forest Service, and was created to support rural counties whose tax base was limited by the amount of federal land in their counties,” reads a Tuesday email from Harry Child, Montana press secretary for Tester’s office. “Essentially, a portion of Forest Service funds generated through multi-use activities, such as grazing, timber production, and special use permits, are distributed to eligible counties to help maintain local roads and schools.”

For Fiscal Year 2023, the county was allocated $418,420.16 under the Secure Rural Schools program, according to Strickland.

The infrastructure bill included other funding for Montana besides amounts allocated under the Secure Rural Schools program. Tester, the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for the bill, secured funds including $2.82 billion for Montana’s roads, highways and bridges; up to $100 million for the Milk River Project and $1 billion to complete all authorized rural water projects through the Bureau of Reclamation; $42.45 billion for broadband deployment to low-connectivity areas across the country; and $3.37 billion to reduce wildfire risk nationwide, among others, according to a press release from his office.

“Whether it’s resources for schools, roads, or emergency services — our work on the bipartisan infrastructure law is continuing to deliver for rural Montana,” said Tester in the release. “These targeted investments will ensure that children have access to a quality public education, will keep firefighters and law enforcement officers on the beat, and help restore our roads so that Montana doesn’t fall through the cracks. Montana’s counties rely on this critical funding to help grow small businesses and support families, and I’m looking forward to seeing it be put to good use across the Treasure State.”