ROSEBURG, Ore. -- A group of Douglas County residents are concerned as to how county commissioners may or may not be allocating Title III funds and are calling for an investigation.
According to the Secure Rural Schools Act, Title III funds were to be designated to county services related to federal forest lands, such as search and rescue and wildfire protection. In 2007, Senate Bill 550 extended that bill to ensure the federal funds were distributed to counties based on national forest timber revenue and that 25 percent was deposited into school funds, distributed to school districts, and included as district revenue in the school equalization formula.
Daniel Robertson and other Douglas County residents sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to launch an investigation. Robertson wants an investigation conducted to verify if Douglas County commissioners used part of the Title III funds to pay for items outside of what it is allocated for. He said examples of this are using the funds to pay for a commissioner to travel to Washington D.C. to discuss timber polices with the congressional delegation. He also said nearly half a million dollars were allocated towards a non-profit to produce a video, which promotes fire prevention and advocates for managed forests, salvaged logging, and thinning.
An assistant for Tim Freeman, one of the Douglas County commissioners, said Title III is undergoing an external review. She said commissioners will speak to the issue once the review is complete.
Robertson said he wants state and federal officials to ensure the funds are being used appropriately.
"There are many positive uses that over a half a million dollars in Title III funds could be used here in Douglas County." said Robertson. "Potentially, every school child in Douglas county is affected by the misuse of those funds."
KEZI contacted Senator Wyden for comment and his office responded in a statement saying "As the author of t he original secure rural schools program, I strongly believe it's crucial these resources go toward helping people who live and work in Oregon's rural counties Rural Oregonians depend on counties wisely using the economic lifeline and I am open to effective ways of ensuring that the objective is achieved."