Funding to support vital services in rural communities
WASHINGTON—As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to rural communities, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced more than 1,900 local governments around the country are receiving a total of $451.6 million under the 2016 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
The payments represent the largest amount ever allocated under the PILT program to compensate counties and local governments for their support of national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands and waters as they forego property taxes due to non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions. A full list of funding by state and county is available at www.doi.gov/pilt.
“Rural communities contribute significantly to our nation’s economy, food and energy supply, and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country,” said Secretary Jewell. “These investments often serve as a lifeline for local communities as they juggle planning and paying for basic services like public safety, housing, social services and transportation.”
PILT program eligibility is reserved for local governments (mostly rural counties) that provide significant support for national conservation and recreation areas throughout the year.
Congress appropriated $451.6 million for payments to counties for the 2016 program. The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposes to return the PILT program to mandatory funding at $480 million annually, which would ensure funding stability for the program and local communities year after year.
“These investments are one of the ways the federal government can fulfill its role of being a good neighbor to local communities,” said Secretary Jewell. “President Obama has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his Administration and has fought for continuing the PILT program. We encourage Congress to take the required action to make sure this important program continues.”
Using a formula provided by statute, the annual PILT payments to local governments are computed based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. The lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems; lands in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge System; areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management; areas managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects; and others.
Since PILT payments began in 1977, Interior has distributed more than $7.5 billion dollars to states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
The Interior Department collects more than $11 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on public lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues is shared with states and counties. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding to counties.
Individual county payments may vary from the prior year as a result of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land; prior year Federal Revenue Sharing payments reported yearly by the Governor of each State; and population data, which is updated using information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal Revenue Sharing payments were made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous fiscal year, including the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, among others. (PR)