As the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners prepare to draft the county’s 2014 budget, there are two big questions that will be factored in

Lions Park in Hawthorne is one of a few places in town that would take a hit if Mineral County’s yearly PILT fund isn’t fully funded this year. (Heidi Bunch photo)

By Eric Dahlberg, MCIN Staff

As the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners prepare to draft the county’s 2014 budget, there are two big questions that will be factored in – Will they be receiving PILT funds, and if so how much.

PILT funding, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes is an attempt by the federal government to compensate counties across the United States for non-taxable land in their jurisdictions. Last week that funding, which has been around since 1976, was left off of the omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through September, and has left many leaders in rural counties wondering what’s next.

However, on Tuesday it was announced that PILT funding would be included in the upcoming Farm Bill, although the extent of the funding hasn’t been determined.

“PILT funding is very important to Mineral County,” said County Commission Chairman Jerrie Tipton. “Since I’ve been on the board, half of the PILT funds that we receive have gone to balance our budget on the general fund side.”

In 2013, Nevada received $23 million in payments that were divided up throughout each county. The formula used to compute those payments is based mostly on population levels and the amount of federal land within an affected county. Last year Mineral County received $643,000 in PILT funds, which is around the average that it gets on a yearly basis.

While PILT funds weren’t included in the federal spending bill, Rep. Mark Amodei said last week that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner promised it would be funded soon, but couldn’t say whether it would be funded at 100 percent or not.

“The bottom factual line is we have the public commitment of leadership that it will get done,” Amodei said.

Closer to home, Tipton said she had a conference call with 4th congressional district Rep. Stephen Horsford, who covers Mineral County, on Monday along with other rural leaders in his district regarding PILT. While the final outcome of the process is still up in the air, it was clear the congressman has been making strides to make sure his counties get their fair share.

“He (Horsford) thinks it may go to committee as early as Wednesday,” Tipton said. “He didn’t know how much money each county would receive yet though.”

Horsford’s office released a statement last week supporting the efforts of finding a permanent solution.

“PILT is critical to rural counties in my district, and it makes up a significant portion of many budgets for traditionally underserved communities,” said Horsford. “Work is being done on a short-term extension of the funding, which expires in June. However, Nevadans need a long-term solution. That is why I am joining a bipartisan coalition of congressional members who represent communities in need of PILT funding. We are working on a permanent vehicle for this program so rural communities have the certainty they need in their budgeting processes.”

A cut in funding could be a big blow to Mineral County, which relies on those funds for other projects throughout the county like town cleanup, CAHS and the Park and Rec department. If they come to find out that they’ll be getting significantly less money when they submit the preliminary budget to the state on April 15, then Tipton says they’ll just have to make it work.

“If we don’t get fully funded, that would mean that there are some things that don’t happen in Mineral County this year,” she said. “Parks and Rec wouldn’t get as much money, and the town cleanup budget wouldn’t be as big, but it’s not as if we’d go bankrupt. We always try to keep $100,000 in reserve as it is.”