The Carter Administration yesterday proposed cutting $500 million from the controversial impact aid program, including more than $30 million to Washington-area schools.
The President's 1980 budget is the biggest assult yet on the program that funnels federal funds to local school systems that receive no tax dollars from government installations in their districts.
Rep. Herbert E. Harris II (D-Va.), whose wealthy suburban district would be among the hardest hit, denonunced the proposal, saying "there is no reason to cut $500 million from public education and not try to close a single tax loophole."
Harris predicted that Congress would, as usual, restore the money to the budget.
Dr. Paul Henry, a montgomery County school official who is national treasurer of the Impacted Area Schools Assocation, said the Carter plan would "leave us [Montgomery County] dead in the water. We'd get nothing."
Montgomery County is counting on $4.4 million in impact aid funds for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Fairfax County, part of which is located in Harris' district, would lose about $10.2 million of an anticipated $12.3 million in impact aid -- the largest potential loss of any local school system.
The program, begun in 1950, was designed to aid school districts where a heavy concentration of nontaxpaying federal installations and employes adversely affects school financing, largely supported by local property taxes.
But the program has been the object of much criticism in recent years because wealthy school districts, most notably in several Washington suburbs, are among the major benefactors.
Last year, the Carter proposal would have eliminated from the formula aid for children of federal employes who work outside the jurisdiction where their children attend school. This year, the administration seeks to eliminate all impact aid except the money on behalf of children whose parents both work and live on federal installations.
Dr. Henry noted that such a large cut not only would affect wealthy districts, but big city systems that get aid for children who live in public housing projects.
Rep. Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.) said the Carter plan is "ill-advised," and added, "I expect well over half the members of Congress will agree with me."
Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has sought to reduce the appropriation but because more than 4,000 school districts share in the funds -- and those districts are located in nearly every one of the 435 Congressional districts -- Congressional approval of any cuts in the program has been rare.
James Maza, executive director of the Impacted Area Schools Association, said the Carter proposal results from "a fundamental misunderstanding of the program." Cutting impact aid will not help fight inflation "because it leaves school districts with only two options -- increase property taxes or decrease services," he said.
Henry contends that the federal government gets a bargain by awarding impact aid instead of paying local property taxes on its installations.
In Montgomery County, for example, he said federal property had an assessed value of $285.5 million as of July 1, 1978. If the government paid the average county tax rate of $3.77 per $100 of assessed valuation, its annual cost would be $10.8 million, or more than twice the amount of impact aid, Henry said.
To make up the entire $4.4 million in impact aid via the property tax would cost taxpayers another.579 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, Henry said.
While he cautioned that examples can result in distortions, using these figures the owner of an $80,000 house would have to pay $230 a year more in taxes to make up the difference.
Henry said overall loses in impact aid would be greater than the figures shown in the accompanying chart because the President also proposed immediate elimination of all payments for programs that were being phased out gradually.