Del Norte’s federal payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) allotment is expected to be much higher than last year as the U.S. Department of the Interior prepares to disburse the largest amount ever allocated in the program’s 40 year history.
The county is expecting to receive $1,190,998 in PILT cash, which is meant to replace lost property taxes on National Forest Service and other federally-acquired lands, according to County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina. Last year’s allotment was $608,000.
According to Sarina, after years of seeing PILT revenue decrease, his staff were notified that payments would return “to historic levels.”
“That’s good news,” Sarina said Monday. “We are still trying to confirm that number; it is on their website. I’ve contacted people on the federal end. Before we throw it in our budget we need to ensure that is the number.”
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced Wednesday that 57 local governments in California would receive $60.5 million under the 2018 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Nationwide, more than 1,900 local governments will receive $552.8 million in PILT dollars this year.
PILT eligibility is reserved for local governments that house non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries, including national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas, according to the department. PILT allocations are based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction as well as its population, according to the press release.
Del Norte County houses 447,661 acres of federal land, According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website.
According to Sarina, federal land in Del Norte includes land managed by the Six Rivers National Forest, including the Smith River National Recreation Area, as well as the Siskiyou Wilderness in the southeastern part of the county.
Over the years, Sarina said, Del Norte’s federal PILT payments, and payments to all counties, have been reduced “depending on the reauthorization and legislation that’s come forward.”
At one point, he said, Del Norte received $155,000 in federal PILT dollars. However, in recent years PILT payments have been increasing.
“The words they used were historical numbers,” he said.
The Department of the Interior has distributed approximately $8.5 billion to states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands since PILT payments began in 1977, according to the department’s press release.
The department collects more than $9.6 billion annually from commercial activities on public lands, such as oil and gas leases, livestock grazing and timber harvesting, according to the press release.
Once Del Norte receives its 2018 PILT allotment, those dollars will go into the county’s general fund, Sarina said. This pays for local public services, including the sheriff’s office, jail, public defense, the district attorney and probation, he said.
Sarina also noted the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors approved a recommended budget last week with a $2.6 million deficit. Del Norte’s PILT payment would help the county get to a balanced budget, he said.
“The board, they approved the preliminary budget, it’s called a recommended budget, but it’s only an interim spending plan until we get to the actual budget areas and goes through the final steps,” Sarina said. “(This) brings the deficit down, but we have to look at additional costs we’ve incurred from the fact of just doing business.”
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