U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, welcomed Mr. Justin Dilley, science teacher at Pocahontas County High School, to testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the importance of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs to rural communities.
“I’d like to recognize Justin Dilley,” Manchin said. “Justin’s from Pocahontas County. He’s a high school science teacher in my home state of West Virginia. Thank you, Justin, for being here, and I understand Justin’s students back in West Virginia, in Pocahontas County, are watching us live this morning. And I would like to say hello to all of them and remind them that they have a great teacher in you, Justin. I know they already know that.
“I happen to be married to a teacher myself, and I understand the work and sacrifices that all of you put into this job—a labor of love. On behalf of me and my wife Gayle, I want to thank both you and your wife for your commitment and service to helping our next generation of West Virginians prepare to succeed in life.”
“I can only speak today to my experiences in our county,” Dilley said, “but I know our experiences are mirrored in counties across the country. Pocahontas County has a population of about 8,400 people and a land area of about 602,000 acres, making it the third largest county of the 55 counties in West Virginia. It also gives us a population density of 8.9 people per square mile, the lowest in West Virginia. Of the 602,000 acres that make up Pocahontas County, almost two thirds of this is Monongahela National Forest. This is land that is not available for development and also that is not taxed.”
Manchin questioned Dilley about proper use of SRS funding by West Virginia counties.
“So Mr. Dilley, I know that you take your role of ensuring proper use of these funds very seriously, as well,” Manchin said. “Can you describe how Pocahontas County uses the funds it receives through the Secure Rural Schools program?”
“Absolutely,” Dilley answered. “Pocahontas County, of course – the way West Virginia works is we receive our SRS after the state gets it. Many places use their PILT money differently than the SRS funds. And, of course, we need these SRS funds. We put them toward things like maintenance to our aging buildings; transportation costs; personnel that the state may not be able to fund; different programs for students – after-school activities, anything that they may need help with; different salaries for personnel that are not covered by the state but we have to have for special education requirements. All these things are what our SRS money is put toward.… These SRS funds, you know, these schools need them and depend on them. Our children are our future, and if you’re going to re-establish and grow a rural community, you need to invest in your school systems.”
You can watch Dilley’s opening statement at https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBjgn-WYFp4&t=8s