When an accident happens on federal land, county sheriffs and local emergency personnel are often the first ones on the scene. But local governments don't get reimbursed for the services they provide.
And they don't get property taxes for federal land.
The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is designed to offset these types of losses by providing federal payments to local governments that have large tracts of federal land within their jurisdictions. But last week's budget bill that passed Congress did not provide funding for this important program.
On Monday, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Delta County Commissioners Mark Roeber and Doug Atchley, Club 20 executive director Bonnie Petersen, Club 20 chair elect Les Mergelman, and more than a dozen other Colorado county commissioners, local officials, and small business owners met in Grand Junction to discuss the urgent need for PILT payments and to press Washington to restore this vital funding stream.
Bennet is fighting to restore PILT funding, including securing it in the Farm Bill from his position on the Farm Bill conference committee, which is currently negotiating the final legislation.
Last year, Colorado received $32 million in PILT payments from the federal government, putting it just behind Utah for the fifth most nationally.
"These are critical payments that the federal government owes to local Colorado communities," Senator Bennet said. "The fact that we even have to have this fight is evidence of the wide gap that exists between what happens in Washington, and what folks actually deal with on the ground out here in Colorado. And it's why we have to keep fighting to make sure this problem is fixed and Colorado voices are heard."
"Although we are a relatively small county, more than half of our land is federal," said Commissioner Doug Atchley. "We're pinching every penny we can pinch and the loss of PILT payments would be devastating. We're grateful to Senator Bennet for meeting with us and for working on our behalf."
Club 20 executive director Bonnie Peterson noted approximately 70 percent of western Colorado is owned by the federal government.
"It's important to realize that this is a significant amount of land that isn't revenue-generating for those counties," she said. "PILT payments are a modest investment in those counties to help them provide basic services like search and rescue, fire protection, and bridge and road maintenance. These dollars are critical to the entire West Slope of Colorado."
In 2013, Delta County received approximately $135,000 in PILT payments, county administrator Robbie LeValley reports.blog comments powered by Disqus