Lincoln County recently received $644,300 of payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Federal government issues the money to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.
“At this time we have no specific projects in mind” for the money, Lincoln County Administrator Darren Coldwell said via email. “My hope would be to have use as a surplus and not have to include it in this fiscal budget, depending on how the budget turns out.”
Coldwell wrote that the money can be used for matching grants, emergency needs, unforeseen legal costs and other items.
“Lincoln County purposely leaves those funds available through the year,” he added.
The amount is about $40,000 less than was received last year, but more than in other recent years.
Lincoln County Treasurer Nancy Higgins said via email that in the past, “several county loans have been made from PILT to special districts that have allowed those districts to do projects up front and repay the county over several years. I believe that the commissioners have used PILT as grant matching funds on numerous occasions.”
In announcing the funding disbursement in late June, Sen. Steve Daines stated that the payments are “essential” for keeping public services operating in Montana’s rural counties, while Sen. Jon Tester stated that the payments also help counties balance their budgets.
Even though the payments have come regularly in recent years, Coldwell didn’t count on them.
“We had been told that these funds were more than likely to come in, but we did not hold our breath, just in case,” he wrote.