Areas receive more than $2 million from Interior Dept.

Counties along the northern Front Range have received nearly $2.18 million in payments in lieu of taxes from the federal Department of the Interior. The money is part of more than $34.5 million the PILT program released Tuesday to Colorado counties.

The federal payments to local governments help offset losses in property taxes because of nontaxable federal land within their boundaries, such as national parks, national forests, national monuments, national wildlife areas, Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water projects, some military properties and tracts administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The money helps pay for critical services such as search-and-rescue operations, road maintenance and fire protection, as well as school construction and other local public works.

Larimer County received $1,748,790 to cover 806,416 acres of federal lands within its boundaries. Boulder County received $359,944 for 163,446 acres, and Weld County was issued $70,924 for 197,190 acres.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday announced that about 1,900 local governments around the nation would receive a total of $436.9 million, the largest amount ever allocated under the PILT program to compensate counties and local governments for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions
The formula used to compute the payments is based on population, receipt-sharing payments as well as the amount of federal land within an affected county. PILT payments are in addition to other revenues such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting that are transferred to the states by the federal government.

The PILT program had been left out of the original renewal plan for the 2014 federal farm bill, but a one-year was restored in January, thanks to a bipartisan effort in Congress that included Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both D-Colo. President Obama signed the overall farm bill in February.

“Communities throughout Colorado count on the PILT program to support schools and other essential services. I was proud to successfully work with local leaders and Sen. Bennet to include this funding in the 2014 farm bill,” Udall said in a press statement. “However, Colorado needs a long-term solution to permanently fund the PILT program and avoid the perennial uncertainty of the federal budgeting process. I am committed to continuing to fight for rural Colorado and getting this done.”

This year’s PILT program is the last to be funded under the farm bill, From 2008 through 2012, the program was funded under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2013. Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposes to extend mandatory full funding for the program for another year while a sustainable long-term funding solution is developed.

“PILT funding provides a necessary lifeline for many of our rural communities that face continuously shrinking budgets, and allows them to provide critical services like police and fire protection and road maintenance,” Bennet said in the joint statement. “We are excited about the announcement of this year’s funds, which we worked to secure. Now we need a long-term solution for PILT funding. Our local leaders shouldn’t be forced into wondering from year to year if they will receive the payments the federal government owes them.”

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