Routt receives $1.45 million in PILT funding

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— Routt County is among the 56 rural Colorado counties receiving more than $27.7 million from the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. County Finance Director Dan Strnad said Thursday he already was counting on Routt County’s 2012 share of the PILT funding — about $1.45 million — and that his concern is whether any funds will be available in 2013.

“That’s a big number and it’s open for debate if we’ll get it next year,” Strnad said

The acronym PILT refers to payments made to counties with large tracts of public land within their boundaries. The money is intended to offset the loss of property tax revenues those public lands represent.

“The PILT program is a lifeline for financially-strapped rural counties in Colorado,” Sen. Michael Bennet wrote in a news release. “These critical resources support communities that have been stretched thin to make ends meet. I remain committed to passing a long-term extension of PILT to ensure that we continue to make smart investments that create jobs and economic opportunity in our rural communities.”

Routt County’s annual share of PILT monies goes into the Road and Bridge Department budget, Strnad said.

Nationally, PILT payments total approximately $375 million, Strnad said, and the top 12 states in terms of PILT payments account for $316 million. Not coincidentally, all 12 are Western states, with California ranking first at $38 million, Utah next at $35 million and Colorado third at more than $27 million.

The concern, Bennet and fellow Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said, is that legislation to extend the PILT program beyond this year is being held up in conference committee.

“As each of the 56 communities receiving these funds today can attest, Congress needs to extend funding for the PILT program. To do anything less will levy steep costs on rural Colorado communities and their residents,” Udall wrote in the news release.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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