Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 18, 2013
Payment in lieu of taxes fills county cash box for now

Tooele County received $3.19 million from the federal government last Friday.

The $3,193,382 check was for Payments In Lieu of Taxes, a federal program that compensates counties for non-taxable federal lands in their jurisdiction.

The money received for 2013 was $66,873 shy of the $3,260,255 the county received in PILT last year. But it was $156,382 more than the 2013 Tooele County budget had projected.

“We are glad to have the money,” said Bruce Clegg, Tooele County Commission chairman. “It is a little more than what we expected. The PILT money means we will be able to make payroll and pay our bills until November when property tax starts to come in.”

In March, the commissioners received a letter from Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior at the time, indicating that due to sequestration, June 2013 PILT payments would be 5.1 percent less than 2012 payments.

Tooele County officials calculated a $250,000 reduction in PILT revenue as they worked on their financial recovery plan.

However, in the Department of the Interior’s June 13 press release that coincided with the announcement of PILT payment amounts, the DOI said that PILT funding for 2013 had been reduced from the authorized amount of $421.7 by $21.5 million and that after administrative expenses, $399.9 million was available for payment to counties. In 2012 $393 million was distributed to counties.

The $250,000 expected shortfall for Tooele County turned into a $156,000 bonus.

PILT distribution to counties is calculated using a formula provided by statute that includes the amount of eligible federal lands — primarily Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land, and the population of the county.

PILT money is budgeted as revenue in the general and municipal services funds and is not restricted to any specific expenses, according to Mike Jensen, Tooele County auditor.

“We have received the PILT payment and it has been deposited to our bank account,” said Tooele County Treasurer Jeremy Walker. “The PILT money should take care of our cash flow needs until property tax revenue starts to come in. Our financial recovery plan is working.”

Tooele County received the most PILT money of Utah’s 29 counties. Iron County came in second place with $3.0 million and Box Elder County came in third place with $2.9 million. Altogether, $35.4 million was allocated to counties in Utah.

Tooele County has 2,050,189 acres of BLM and U.S. Forest Service land, making the PILT payment equal to $1.56 per acre of eligible land.

Including military bases, the federal government owns 3.6 million acres, or 81 percent of Tooele County, which drops the PILT payment to an average of 88 cents per federal acre.

Continuation of the PILT program is in jeopardy; this is the last year of funding for PILT under the congressional act that re-authorized PILT in 2012.

“President Obama has proposed fully funding the PILT program in 2014,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel. “And we encourage Congress to take action to make sure this important program continues.”

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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