Counties Secure Federal Land Funding but SRS Funds Still a Question for 2015

| January 2, 2015
January 01, 2015 5:30 am  • 

As the new year begins and Coconino County begins to build its annual budget, the county can erase the question mark beside at least one chunk of federal money.

Congress fully funded the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in two end-of-year must-pass bills, the omnibus spending bill and the National Defense Authorization Act. The $442 million program, which reimburses counties for un-taxable federal lands within their jurisdictions, is a much-needed funding source for those local governments, especially the ones in the West.

Arizona is among the top five states in the amount of PILT funding it received last year with $34.5 million. Coconino County got $1.7 million of that money, and expects to receive the same amount in 2015, said Joanne Keene, the county’s government relations director. Almost 40 percent of Coconino County’s 11.9 million acres are federal lands, which is on par with the state average.

The federal money goes into the county’s general fund to support anything from criminal justice to parks and recreation to economic development, County Supervisor Liz Archuleta said.

“Public lands add to the beauty and attraction of our county, but people who enjoy public lands also create impacts,” Archuleta said. “With that beauty also comes expenses to the county.”

Since Congress started funding PILT in one-year increments, the program has become a permanent fixture on Coconino County’s legislative lobbying priority list. In September, Archuleta was among a group of legislators who traveled to Washington D.C. to host a congressional briefing on immediate and long-term funding for the PILT program. Coconino County staff and lawmakers also have put constant pressure on state and federal legislators to push for full funding this year.

It’s a practice that lawmakers will have to repeat year after year unless Congress creates a long-term funding solution.

………Read the full article HERE.

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