Flathead County to Receive $2.2 Million in Federal Land Compensation
Flathead County will receive $2.2 million in federal compensation for its large swath of nontaxable land.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester announced Wednesday that the state’s counties will receive nearly $27 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to pay for essential services for residents.
PILT payments are made by the U.S. Department of the Interior to 55 Montana counties with federal lands that are not taxable by local governments, but the lands’ presence creates demands for local government services, such as law enforcement and infrastructure.
Flathead County received the largest total of PILT funds among Montana counties once again this year. Last year the county received $2.41 million. Flathead has 2.44 million acres of federal land, the most in the state followed by Beaverhead County, with 2.05 million acres.
“PILT is a critical tool for Montana counties to improve schools, upgrade roads, and invest in rural communities,” Tester said. “These payments help keep rural communities alive, and we need to make PILT permanent to give rural counties the certainty they need to grow their communities.”
Mandatory full funding for PILT expired in 2014. Congress provided nearly full funding for PILT this year, but future funding for these payments to rural counties is not guaranteed.
PILT funds are added to the county’s general funding, and in years past the commissioners have used the funds for road maintenance and large capital projects, such as the renovation of the courthouse.
Lincoln County, with 1.76 million acres, will receive $579,014. Lake County, with 175,166 acres, will receive $388,620. Sanders County, with 917,344 acres, will get $304,144.
Earlier this year, Tester introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide mandatory full funding for PILT payments.
Tester said failing to fund PILT would cause counties to withdraw money from reserve accounts to pay for essential services, like infrastructure and education, and may force counties to lay off essential employees.
Last year Montana received a total of $28.8 million and $26.49 million in 2013.