Wednesday, September 20, 2017

PA Conservation Districts To Senate: House Republican Budget Would Force Cuts To Community-Based Projects

The PA Association of Conservation Districts Tuesday wrote to all members of the Senate urging them to oppose the House Republican budget proposal that would cut over $2.5 million from the Conservation Fund which has already been allocated for specific community projects.  The text of the email follows--
Dear Senator:
By now you are well aware of the House proposal to balance the state budget by taking a one-time transfer from non-lapsing funds including the conservation district 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 districts across the state.  If these dollars are transferred, 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.  
An attached spreadsheet shows the 2017-2018 State Conservation Commission's disbursement of money from the Conservation District Fund.  
The document clearly shows all available funding is utilized, meaning there is NOT $2.506 MILLION IN SURPLUS FUNDS AVAILABLE (emphasis theirs).
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 allocated.  
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 House 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.  If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Brenda J. Shambaugh
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
For more information on programs, initiatives and upcoming events, visit the PA Association of Conservation Districts website.
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