County gets $460K in PILT payments

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Routt County will receive about $460,000 from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

The total is about $200,000 more than the county anticipated.

The PILT program compensates counties for nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries. Colorado counties shared $17.6 million in payments from the program, which was authorized in 1976.

Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan said the county is pleased to see the funds, which exceed what was budgeted and what was received last year.

The PILT funds will help balance shortfalls in revenues from mineral lease funds, Sullivan said. The county expected to receive $325,000 from mineral lease funds, but has taken in only $10,000 and does not expect to receive much more.

"There's a $300,000 hit right there in the reduction of revenues from the mineral lease funds, so the PILT money helps make up that shortfall," Sullivan said.

In 2000 and 2001, Routt County received about $500,000 in PILT payments, he said. But in 2002, that amount dipped to $260,000, the value the county predicted it would receive in 2003 and in 2004.

In 2003, however, about $430,000 was taken in from the payments, which brought the county close to the historic level, Sullivan said.

PILT funds are used for road and bridge projects in Routt County. Receiving more than expected is helpful in what has been a tight budget year, Sullivan said.

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, has introduced separate legislation that would fully fund the PILT program. He said many counties in Western Colorado rely heavily on the payments.

"Nowhere is PILT more important than it is to us in rural Colorado," McInnis said.

Since the program began, the value of payments to local governments has been eroded by inflation, he said.

"These federal dollars are much needed and will be well spent," he said. "But it is not enough."

Sullivan said he felt it was good "for McInnis' office to look out for us and work as hard as they can to get us the funding that we're supposed to get statutorily."

The funds from the PILT program are administered by the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management. Payments are made for BLM administered lands, national forests, parks, wildlife refuges, land used for federal water projects and some military installations.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said the Routt National Forest was happy to see the county receive the larger-than-expected payments.

"The Routt National Forest has almost 527,000 acres within Routt County, so we're really pleased that a substantial amount of money comes back to Routt County to be used for local projects," Ritschard said.

Garfield, Larimer, Mesa and Montrose counties each received more than $1 million in PILT payments.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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