U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney today announced that the Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $66.8 million for Impact Aid section 8002 (Federal Properties), which will mean about $3.5 million in federal aid for the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery School District. Schumer and Maloney called this a victory for the school district, which is in a unique position because the land within its district is approximately 93 percent exempt from property taxation due to wholly exempt federal and state-owned land. Highland Falls school district therefore has a very small tax base and, to make matters worse, has been drastically and constantly shortchanged by the state and federal government over the years. This legislation will provide the school district with the more than $3.5 million in federal funds needed to keep it up and running despite its small tax base. Earlier this year when the President released his Fiscal Year 2016 proposed budget for the department of Education, Impact Aid section 8002 was completely defunded. This would have devastated Highland Falls school district who relies on this federal funding for all budget and education purposes. Schumer and Maloney fought to ensure that this funding remained part of the Department of Education’s FY16 appropriations.
“The passage of this $3.5 million in federal funding is great news and exactly what the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery School District needs to provide a consistent and robust learning environment for its students,” said Senator Schumer. “I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill so we can send this to the President’s desk. This bill will help us fund a school district that relies on federal dollars to operate and educates, among others, the children of our public servants who work at West Point Military Academy.”
“This funding would help make significant upgrades to the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery School District,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The additional funding would allow children whose families live near West Point to have good schools, a quality education, and access to the services they need in a safe environment. I am urging my colleagues to pass the omnibus bill. This is an investment in our community, especially for the children of personnel stationed at the West Point Military Academy.”
“Defunding Impact Aid would have had disastrous consequences for the children of Highland Falls,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. “The children, parents, and teachers of Highland Falls depend on our support, and I am happy that Senator Schumer and I were able to restore these investments.”
Schumer, Gillibrand and Maloney explained that the school district relies on this federal funding to operate its schools because approximately 93 percent of the land within the district is exempt from property taxation due to the fact that it is federal and state-owned land. As a result, Highland Falls has a very small tax base to fund its schools. Schumer and Maloney fought to secure the funding in this Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill. In addition, in 2014, Schumer, Gillibrand and Maloney fought hard to secure a provision that provides a three-year extension for the critical funding formula that provides Highland Falls with $2 million in federal funding each year has passed Congress. This formula is a part of the Impact Aid Program, which would have otherwise been eliminated.
The Impact Aid program helps local school districts make up for a funding shortfall caused by having such a large percentage of land exempt from taxation. The Impact Aid 8002 provision included in the omnibus bill provides the overall $3.5 million in annual funding Highland Falls needs to operate that would have otherwise been eliminated. The larger Impact Aid 8002 program received $66.8 million in Fiscal Year 2015 and, in early 2015, the President released his FY16 budget proposal that zeroed out this account. This would have devastated Highland Falls and Schumer, Gillibrand and Maloney fought to secure the funding in this Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which had initially zeroed out the program as well. Additionally, prior to 2013, Highland Falls had been shortchanged by the Impact Aid 8002 funding formula. This was when Schumer and Maloney stepped in and authored a two-year funding formula change that included a “fix” for Highland Falls in the 2013 NDAA. This provision was set to expire this year until all three fought to ensure that a three year extension was included in this year’s NDAA. This will provide Highland Falls with an additional $2 million it needs to operate.