The federal government will send Montezuma County $172,637 this year to help fill county coffers and make up for tax-exempt public lands in the area, according to an announcement last week.
Counties such as Montezuma that have a large percentage of public lands have been receiving the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) since 1976. But this was the first year Congress didn’t initially earmark it for distribution. Congress corrected the situation by adding this year’s funding to the 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed by the president in February.
Without PILT funds, the county would have had to cut the budget across the board, according to county administrator Melissa Brunner.
The county expected to receive $164,243 this year, Brunner told The Cortez Journal in November. But the county will be receiving about $8,394 more, and it will go into the county’s general fund.
“It’s always nice to estimate lower and get more,” she said.
The payment is based on population and acres of public land within a county and then adjusted for other federal funds the county may receive like mineral leasing, according to Department of the Interior documents. The county has 479,944 acres of public land.
The payments in lieu of taxes haven’t been made permanent by legislation yet.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, worked to restore the funding this winter as part of the Western Caucus. He also said it’s a priority to make the funding permanent to help make sure county services, including law enforcement, can be sustained.
“When we have a problem, it is not the federal government that is the first responder,” Tipton said.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., introduced two bills in January that would make PILT permanent, but neither has passed committee votes.