Friday, September 8, 2017

PA Conservation Districts On House GOP Plan To Raid Funds: These Funds Are Not Extra Funding, If Taken, Projects, Programs Will Be Canceled

The PA Association of Conservation Districts sent this email to all members of the Senate and House on a proposal by House Republicans to raid environmental funds, including those related to conservation district programs—
By now you are well aware of a proposal to balance the state budget by taking a one-time transfer from non-lapsing funds including the Conservation District Fund, the Farmland Preservation Fund, and the Environmental Stewardship Fund.  
The PA Association of Conservation Districts (PACD) strongly opposes the "raiding" of these critical dollars.  
This money is not extra funding.  It is funding that has been allocated for specific projects, but not yet reimbursed.  Consequently, the transfer of these dollars has the potential to negate important community projects that have already been obligated across the Commonwealth.
The Conservation Fund provides money for staffing, project implementation including water quality projects, training and numerous other technical assistance programs to conservation districts.   
The funding transfer being proposed from the conservation district fund is money already committed to conservation district projects across the state.  
If these dollars are transferred, the projects will have to be cancelled.
Additionally, these funds are used to partially pay for conservation district managers and technicians, special projects, educational programs, and best management practices going on the ground in your county.
A transfer from the Farmland Preservation Fund is also problematic for conservation districts who work with farmers interested in selling their development rights.  
For example, conservation districts work with farmers in the process of selling an easement through the ag land preservation program.  
Some conservation districts have committed to purchasing these easements from money already provided by the state.  However, the district will not receive the reimbursement until the purchase is completed which could take a year to finalize.  
If what is proposed occurs, the district will have to back out of this purchase.  You can see the devastating impact this will have on the agriculture community.
A similar scenario will occur by transferring money from the Environmental Stewardship Fund.  
Again, this money is provided to conservation districts on a reimbursement basis, but has already been committed.  
It is erroneous to say this funding is unused and unaccounted for.  
Many conservation districts have a contract for a multi-year growing greener grant(s) meaning the project has been started, but not completed.  
Conservation districts do not receive all the project money up front, but get reimbursed quarterly, however, contracts have been signed and executed.  
PACD certainly appreciates the support our conservation districts receive from the PA General Assembly.  
However, we strongly believe that the proposed plan to balance the PA budget by transferring money from the aforementioned funds will have a detrimental effect and devastating impact on our local communities.
Please realize that the proposed transfer of funds are not pots of money waiting to be spent.  Most of these funds have been committed, but not yet reimbursed.  
Once those funds are gone, communities will be forced to cancel projects even though they were initially approved and financially supported by the state.  
PACD, representing all 66 conservation districts across the Commonwealth, urges you to please vote no on this transfer proposal.
For more information on conservation districts, visit the PA Association of Conservation Districts website.
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