Mineral County recently received $781,024 in Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds.
Established on Oct. 20, 1976, PILT funds are payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.
The PILT law was rewritten and amended in September of 1982 and recognizes the “inability of local governments to collect property taxes on Federally-owned land” which can create a financial impact.
In an informal meeting with Mineral County Commissioner Jerrie Tipton and Recorder-Auditor Christine Hoferer, the two elected officials explained how PILT is used within the county.
“We use PILT for emergencies,” the county commissioner explained. “The money is budgeted independently.”
Hoferer, who has to watch the monies of the county coffers closely, explained that during budget hearing times with the department heads, she asks them to “include their needs”.
Many times, Tipton explained, PILT has been used to help the county bail out of such emergencies as the 911 system failing, many years ago. “If we had not had PILT, we would have had to find $98,000 to fix the 911 system.”
The money also helps to fund, annually, such programs as: Consolidated Agency of Human Services (CAHS) – who without this service, the county would have to step up and offer these services to the citizens of the county; Cooperative Extension; the county indigent fund; parks and recreation; the Hawthorne airport and Mineral County Care & Share. Each entity is either given a percentage or set amount. Others use the money as grant match funds.
“The pay for our law enforcement also comes out of the PILT fund,” Hoferer explained. In her last year as the chief financial officer for the county, Hoferer has been working with other departments on a new software system for the county, DevNet as the AS400 system is being retired. She stated, “We would be lost without PILT, if we would have had final the budget for that [the new system].”
Hoferer and Tipton had high praises for former County Commissioner Cliff Cichowlaz who helped work with county departments on the budgeting and transferring of the funds for needs.
Tipton, known for her knowledge of land and land matters, explained that counties are paid 30 cents an acre for Bureau of Land Management land and $3.80/acre for bear ground within the county.
Neighboring Nye County received $3,326,751 in PILT funds. Both Churchill and Lyon Counties received over $2 million each.
Mineral County has 1,936,566 total acres of land.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) explains that counties often provide services on public lands and therefore many jurisdictions often fund search and rescue, fire management and emergency medical services out of this fund.
Both Tipton and Hoferer know that funds coming from the government can vary from time to time. In the history of PILT payments to Mineral County the commissioners and Hoferer err on the side of caution and budget cautiously for these funds. For the 2018 fiscal year, $650,000 was projected. The county received $781,024.
“PILT investments often serve as critical support for local communities as the juggle planning and paying for basic services as public safety, firefighting, social services and transportation, “Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke stated. “These investments are one of the ways the federal government is fulfilling its role of being a good land manager and a good neighbor to local communities,” he said.
Over the past 40 years, the Department of Interior has invested over $8.5 billion dollars to PILT programs in counties, such as Mineral, across the country.