Friday, June 21, 2013

PILT payments to be cut; Clearwater County’s share increases

The Obama Administration announced this week that the annual Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments for local governments across the country, including those in Idaho, will be cut to meet sequester benchmarks.

Clearwater County has been among those Idaho counties receiving PILT payments each year. This year’s amount came to $556,957, which is $155,861 more than last year.

PILT are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

The formula used to compute the payments is contained in the PILT Act and is based on population, receipt sharing payments and the amount of Federal land within an affected county.

The 2013 authorized level is $421.7 million, which was reduced by $21.5 million due to sequestration. After administrative expenses, a total of $399.8 million is allocated for payments to counties.

“Local communities in Idaho are going to feel a significant impact with a cut to their PILT payments,” said Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

PILT was enacted to provide payments to offset the impact of the presence of federal lands. Nearly 80 percent of Idaho’s counties depend on these funds to help provide for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and emergency response. These payments are made based on formulas related to revenue and impacts to counties.

In Clearwater County’s case, one of the many factors influencing PILT payments is the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act, also known as the Craig-Wyden Bill. The SRS amount has been decreasing the last few years, so the county’s PILT payments have gone up as a result.

PILT payments are renewed on a year-to-year basis, so it is difficult to determine whether next year’s payment, if it is given, will be affected by spending cuts.

“We appreciate the money for the Federal land in our county, and hope this obligation is fulfilled into the future,” said Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert.

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