Mesa County gets $3 million PILT check

Mesa County will receive more than $3 million in the latest payment in lieu of taxes on more than 1.5 million acres of public lands.

The payment is the single largest of a total of nearly $31 million in so-called PILT payments to Colorado counties. Nationwide, a total of almost $405 million will be distributed to 1,900 local government entities.

The PILT program compensates counties for revenues from nontaxable federal lands, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service. Payments are based on the acreage of federal land and population within a county.

“PILT payments are critical for maintaining essential public services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads and search and rescue operations,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Funding for the PILT program comes from the $14 billion in annual revenues the Department of Interior collects from commercial activities on federal lands, including energy development, livestock grazing and timber harvests. Congress appropriated $404.6 million for the PILT program for the 2015 fiscal year program. President Barack Obama has included in his proposed 2016 fiscal year budget full funding of $452 million for the PILT program

The combined acreage of federal lands in Mesa County is third in Colorado behind only Moffat County with nearly 1.7 million acres and Gunnison County with more than 1.6 million acres. The PILT payment is far higher for Mesa County than the other counties, though, because of the larger population.

The PILT payment to Mesa County for the 2015 fiscal year is lower than the $3.4 million payment in 2014 and $3.1 million payment in 2013, but nearly double the $1.6 million payment in 2012.

With nearly 1.2 million acres of federal lands, Garfield County will receive the second largest PILT payment in Colorado for the 2015 fiscal year of almost $2.8 million. Montrose County will receive slightly more than $2 million in payment in lieu of taxes on nearly 1 million acres of federal land.

Despite having almost 1.5 million acres of federal lands, the less populated Rio Blanco County will receive nearly $500,000. Delta County will receive more than $185,000 for more than 400,000 acres.