County urges U.S. Congress to approve funding
EAGLE COUNTY — In an effort to support the county’s strategic goals, the Eagle County Board of Commissioners is urging Congress to approve immediate and long-term funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program which is set to expire on Friday.
PILT provides payments to counties and other local governments to help offset losses in tax revenues due to substantial acreage of federal land. The program helps fund services such as road and bridge upkeep, public safety and emergency medical services to residents and visitors of federal public lands.
“Although Eagle County benefits from the federal lands within its boundaries, we also incur direct costs, including the additional funding required for firefighting, law enforcement and search and rescue services associated with the public use of those lands,” said Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.
For this year, Eagle County has budgeted $1.8 million in PILT in its general fund and $450,000 in its road and bridge fund, representing approximately 4 and 5 percent of the total annual operating expenditures of those funds, respectively. In addition, the local rural school districts receive approximately $630,000 in funding from the county through the “Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act” portion of PILT. A loss of that funding would also negatively impact the county.
“PILT is not a grant or a gift — and it’s critical for our congressional leaders to remember ‘in lieu of taxes’ means exactly that,” said Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney. “If those lands were in private hands, Eagle County would receive tax dollars to fund schools, roads, social services and other critical needs,” she said.
General Fund Loss
In a letter sent to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the commissioners express the importance of PILT as 78.6 percent of the land within the county is federally owned and not subject to property taxes. They also point out that the loss of PILT funding cannot be made up through mill levies per Tabor restrictions and would result in a 17 percent loss of general fund property tax revenues and severe decreases in service levels for the county.
“As set by our strategic plan, we are charged with helping to protect the natural environment and maintaining a high-performing organization,” said Commissioner Jill Ryan. “A policy of non-reimbursement of the vital core services we provide would discourage ongoing natural resource protection from local governments.”
To learn more about the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, visit http://www.doi.gov/pilt. To further support the PILT program, contact your local, regional and state officials.