The federal government wants $17.9 million back from timber communities - money the feds distributed to help communities finance schools, roads and other local services.
The biggest chunk of money in question, $15.6 million, falls under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. This 2000 law - once known as Craig-Wyden, for original Senate sponsors Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. - is designed to replace revenue from timber receipts.
In January, Uncle Sam distributed $323 million under this law. This included a $26.6 million payment for Idaho, of which $7.6 million went to Idaho schools.
So what happened? The automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts commonly known as the "sequester." The federal government says the timber payments are subject to the automatic cuts.
Now, let's crunch the numbers a bit. If this sequester cut is applied across the board, at the 5.1 percent rate prescribed under sequestration, Idaho schools could be looking at a Secure Rural Schools cut of nearly $400,000.
Not surprisingly, Secure Rural Schools payments are largest, and most critical, to school districts surrounded by timber country. The Mountain View School District - a sprawling, 8,300-square-mile district encompassing Grangeville, Elk City and Kooskia - received more than $1.23 million from the program in 2012-13.
Using that 5.1 percent figure as a baseline, this district could face close to $63,000 in cuts.
According to the state Department of Education, the other top five Secure Rural Schools funding recipients are Salmon ($533,000), McCall-Donnelly ($506,000), Cottonwood ($428,000) and Kellogg ($412,000).
The feds' refund demand has drawn fire on Capitol Hill. Thirty-one House members sent a letter to the Obama administration last week, saying local governments should be allowed to keep the money.
Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson was among the co-signers. Rep. Raul Labrador was not.