The U.S. Department of the Interior released more than $34.5 million to Colorado through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program on Wednesday. Colorado counties received the funds thanks to the efforts of U.S. Sens.Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to include a one-year extension of funding for the PILT program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program is incredibly important for all the counties in Colorado,” Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “Our county is roughly 88 percent federal lands that are exempt from property taxes. The PILT program acknowledges that fact.”
The PILT program provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. These resources help pay for critical services like search-and-rescue operations, road maintenance and fire protection.
About 1,900 rural governments, mostly counties, receive PILT funds each year. Counties receive funds based on a formula that includes their percentage of federal lands, population and prior-year payments from revenue sharing of mineral-leasing royalties.
This year, Pitkin County’s share of funds increased slightly to $1.33 million, compared with the $1.25 million last year. Eagle County’s share jumped up to $2.19 million after receiving $2.04 million in 2013. Garfield County saw its total increase almost $200,000 from the $2.83 million it received last year.
According to Pitkin County treasurer Tom Oken, the PILT funds will go directly into the county general fund, which is used for general county services outside of special funding. Special funding includes the airport and the solid-waste center that both are supported by funds they generate.
Udall and Bennet’s successful work to include PILT funding in the 2014 Farm Bill followed their efforts to permanently fund and authorize the program. They introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year to accomplish this goal.
“PILT funding provides a necessary lifeline for many of our rural communities that face continuously shrinking budgets, and allows them to provide critical services like police and fire protection and road maintenance,” Bennet said in a statement from his office. “Now we need a long-term solution for PILT funding. Our local leaders shouldn’t be forced into wondering from year to year if they will receive the payments the federal government owes them.”