Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials partnered with Swain County Schools to prepare documentation for Impact Aid funding through the Department of Education. Swain County was recently notified that their submission for funding was approved for $577,000 to help meet school needs.
Only 24% of Swain County is taxable because of property that makes up the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Qualla Boundary, National Forest Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Blue Ridge Parkway. Due to the significant presence of non-taxable, federal lands making up the county, Senator Richard Burr helped lead efforts to make the county eligible to apply for the Impact Aid funding for the 2016-17 school year.
The project was spearheaded by Swain County resident, Leonard Winchester, who contacted Superintendent Cash for assistance. The application process required documentation of all the deeds and surveys for each parcel from the time of private ownership to the current status of federal ownership.
“This was a great opportunity for us to work with one of our gateway communities in a unique way,” said Superintendent Cash. “Our park resource education rangers work closely each year with Swain County students and this was one more chance for us to support our local schools.”
The park partnered with Friends of the Smokies to provide resources to support the work of Bob Wightman to research the title chain of lands now within the National Park and to help prepare the required documents for audit. Paper copies were produced by the Swain County Register of Deeds office and all records later digitized and indexed for retrieval by parcel.
“Without the help of Superintendent Cash and Bob Wightman, we would not have met this year’s funding deadline and most likely not next year’s either,” said Leonard Winchester. “The records provided by Mr. Wightman were foundational to locating the original documents. We could not have done this without them.”
The Impact Aid program funding is subject to annual appropriations of Congress.