County will get $2.5 million in payments

Hungry Horse News

by Chris Peterson

Flathead County will see a federal payment in lieu of taxes of $2.532 million this year, which is up from $2.339 million in 2015.

The payments are meant to offset revenue the county may have received in property taxes from federal lands.

The county has 1.78 million acres of Forest Service land, 29,736 acres of Bureau of Reclamation lands and 632,422 Park Service lands, for a total of 2,442,403 acres.

A little more than half of Glacier National Park is in Flathead County. The Bureau of Reclamation lands include the Hungry Horse Dam.

The payment works out to about $1.03 per acre.

“These payments are critically important to rural communities across Montana,” Montana Sen. Jon Tester said, when announcing the payments last week. “This money builds roads, supports important infrastructure projects, and bolsters local police and fire departments who keep these communities safe.  I am happy to see an increase in these payments.”

County administrator Mike Pence said about $500,000 of the funding goes toward roads and the remainder toward county capital projects, like improvements to the county’s south campus office buildings.

Future payments will likely go toward building a new jail, he noted.

But the federal government pays far less per acre than a typical residential lot. A vacant lot in School District 6, outside the city, pays about $250 a year in taxes, according to figures provided by the county treasurer’s office.

Having said that, public lands are generally regarded as an asset, as they draw in people and provide tax revenue and beneficial spending to local businesses.