CRUNCH THE NUMBERS
Jeff Kemp, left, and Bob Lott of the Garrison’s BRAC Support Team review the Federal Impact Aid that has been received by local schools in past years. Today is the kickoff day for the FY 2010 Federal Impact Aid program. Federal Impact Aid forms will be going home with school-age students today. Parents are urged to complete the form and return it as quickly as possible.

Working on Redstone Arsenal can mean more money for your child's school.

That is, if you take the five minutes or so to fill out the Federal Impact Aid form going home with school children today.

"It is so important for parents to fill out this form," said Barbara Williams, the Garrison's Youth Education Support Service director and school liaison officer.

"In years past, we've always needed the additional funding for local schools that comes from Impact Aid. But, this year, with budgets being cut by proration, this additional funding for school districts is even more important. Schools can use these funds for things like supplies, textbooks and existing programs."

Federal Impact Aid is an annual program that disperses federal grant money to local school districts that are financially burdened or impacted by federal populations. These federal populations must live or work on federal property, which in this area includes Redstone Arsenal, TVA property including the Guntersville Dam, Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and its substations, and the Air Traffic Control Tower at the Huntsville International Airport.

"This program is not limited to children of military personnel," Bob Lott of Garrison's BRAC Support Team said.

"Most people think only children who qualify for Impact Aid are children of military personnel. But, it actually includes all federally connected children, meaning children who have at least one parent working on federal property. They are children of military personnel, Department of

Defense civilians and contractors, NASA civilians and contractors, and anyone working in a support function for the federal government on federal property. If you drive through the gate at Redstone Arsenal to get to work, then your children qualify for Impact Aid."

School forms for Federal Impact Aid going home with school children throughout the Tennessee Valley today should be completed and returned quickly. A press conference promoting the program is set for this morning at Mill Creek Elementary School in Madison.

"The goal is to get all Tennessee Valley school districts involved in Impact Aid," Lott said.
Although local school systems have had good participation in the program in the past, Williams said it could be better.

"There's a lot more out there that could qualify," she said. "We probably get 75 to 80 percent of those school districts that are eligible. There is a growing number of federal employees, some of them BRAC-related, who live in places like Decatur, Limestone County and Athens. We know they are driving in to Redstone Arsenal every day to work. We are trying to reach out to the Tennessee Valley and get more Impact Aid for our schools."

Since the announcement of BRAC in 2005, Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools and Madison County Schools have received $4.2 million in Federal Impact Aid, and over $10 million since 1997.

Federal Impact Aid was started by the federal government to offset the loss of local property taxes associated with federal properties.

"This program helps local populations recoup property taxes," Lott said. "The federal government does not pay property taxes on its property. This helps to offset the local impact by providing schools with Impact Aid funds in lieu of property taxes. It helps to level the playing field."

While the three Madison County school districts have benefitted from Impact Aid funds for several years, other school districts, such as the Arab system, is a more recent participant.

"Huntsville City Schools can tell you what properties in Huntsville are federal properties and what are leased" commercial properties that don't qualify for Impact Aid, even though they may house federal employees, said Jeff Kemp of the Garrison's BRAC Support Team. "In fiscal year 2009, they received almost a half million dollars in Impact Aid."

Arab city schools participated in Impact Aid for the first time in fiscal year 2007 and received more than $27,000 in federal money.

Kemp said parents should complete and return the Impact Aid forms as quickly as possible to give school systems time to process them.

"School systems have to validate the information before they submit it for Impact Aid," he said. "They have to verify that mom and dad do work on federal property."

Kemp also said the Impact Aid forms must be completed every year to reflect changes in each school district's student population. Since 2005, the three Madison County districts have seen a growth of 11.4 percent, representing 5,305 new students.

"There is a threshold that school districts must meet so that schools can participate in this program," he said. "That threshold is 1,000 school children or 10 percent of the student population in a school district must have a parent working on federal property to qualify for this program."

Last year, one local school district missed the threshold by about 25 students. School officials in that district plan to work harder to pinpoint families that qualify for Impact Aid in hopes of meeting the threshold this year.

"The school systems understand that this form means money for their school district," Lott said. "Every form that is not filled out is like leaving money at the kitchen table."

The larger number of students who can qualify for Impact Aid, the more federal funding a school district receives.

"More than ever this money is important to our school districts. With BRAC bringing in more school children and proration cutting funds, these additional funds can help to keep programs going in our schools," Lott said.

Besides the press conference today, Williams has plans to visit local PTAs and attend principal meetings to emphasize participation in Federal Impact Aid.

"The keys to this program are the parents and the school officials," she said. "We want to emphasize to school leaders how important this program can be for their schools. Principals who are pushing for these forms to be returned and parents who take the five minutes to complete the form can really make a big difference in their schools."

Parents who do not receive a Federal Impact Aid form through their child's school can access a form at The Schools Foundation website, http://www.theschoolsfoundation.org/.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16