U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) received the Friend of National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) Award at this year’s NAFIS fall conference for his leadership and support of the Impact Aid program. The federal Impact Aid program provides payments from the federal government to local school districts to make up for local taxes lost on account of federal land, such as military bases, Indian reservations, or federal grasslands, within their districts.
“I’m honored to receive this award,” said Thune. “NAFIS has worked with members of Congress to ensure that South Dakota schools, as well as other federally impacted school districts across the nation, get the certainty they need from the federal government so they can give children the quality education they deserve. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, to fight for these schools that are affected by Impact Aid.”
Since 2012, Thune has championed various provisions to help boost the Impact Aid program, including ending the highly subjective “highest and best” formula for districts with federal lands, which attempted to determine the “real value” of federal property, creating a highly inefficient payment formula that was subject to local interpretation by assessors on the value of taxable property adjacent to eligible federal property. Thune also led an effort to require the U.S. Department of Education to provide payments owed to districts on a more accelerated timeline, providing districts with the ability to better budget for revenues and provide stronger academic and co-curricular programs for students.
In March 2015, Thune introduced the Local Taxpayer Relief Act, which would reauthorize the Impact Aid program and make permanent the provision simplifying the payment calculation process for federal property. This bill was the origin of language included in the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act.