Steamboat Springs Congressman Scott McInnis wants to see some of the federal dollars Routt County receives ramped up to account for inflation.
McInnis, will be in Steamboat Monday for a town meeting. He recently introduced legislation that would increase the money Routt County and the 35 other counties in his Third Congressional District receive as payment in lieu of taxes they might otherwise receive on federal lands.
PILT, as its commonly called, was established in 1976 to recognize that rural counties are dependent on property taxes and do not have an opportunity to collect taxes on federal lands within their boundaries. McInnis says those payments in lieu of taxes have been steadily eroded by inflation.
"Nowhere is PILT more important that it is to us in rural Colorado," McInnis said. "As it stands now, our locally elected officials are in a financial straight-jacket, and only Congress can provide them the relief they need."
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said the County receives about $90,000 annually in PILT money.
"We primarily use it for roads (that lead to federal lands)," Ellison said. "Like Seedhouse Road (north of Clark). We're waiting on PILT money to do a chip and seal right now."
Other roads that could be improved by PILT dollars in the future include County Road 7, which links Yampa to the Flat Tops Wilderness, and County Road 16, which leads to the National Forest beyond Stagecoach Reservoir.
Routt County has 664,249 acres of federal land, Assessor Amy Williams said. That includes 79,902 acres managed by the Bureau of
Land Management, 572,805 acres attributed to the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest, 6,128 acres in the White River National Forest and 5,414 acres in the Arapaho National Forest.
County Finance Director Dan Strnad said he estimates that if Congress fully funded Routt's PILT payments, the typical $90,000 payment would increase to $225,000. However, he thinks the problem has less to do with inflation than it does with Congress' unwillingness to actually appropriate the funds.
"I'm not getting to jazzed about it because I've been hearing for 13 years that they're lobbying for full funding," Strnad said. "What happens is Congress has increased rates, but it's a two-step process, and they don't vote to appropriate the funds."