Area receives federal funds

Local counties garner nearly $900,000

— Three counties are receiving $874,248 combined through the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes program.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the funds today. She noted more than 1,900 local governments will receive a total of $451.6 million.

Yakima County will receive $666,297, Benton County $103,726 and Klickitat County $104,225.

The payments represent the largest amount ever allocated under the program, Jewell said.

It compensates 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.

“Rural communities contribute significantly to our nation’s economy, food and energy supply, and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country,” Jewell said. “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.”

Program eligibility is reserved for local governments (mostly rural counties) that provide significant support for national conservation and recreation areas throughout the year.

President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposes to return the 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,” Jewell said. “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.”

Using a formula provided by statute, the annual 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 three area counties, for example, have a combined 621,682 acres in federal lands that do not provide property tax revenues.

Most of that is in Yakima County, which has 535,850 acres.

Congress appropriated $451.6 million for payments to counties for the 2016 program.

Lands eligible for the funds 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 program payments began in 1977, the federal government has distributed more than $7.5 billion 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 Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding to counties.

Individual county payments may vary from year to year. Factors include changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal government.


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