News

Loss of Funding Could Cost Yuma County About $3.2M

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 11:14 pm, Mon Jan 27, 2014.

By Mara Knaub, Yuma Sun Staff Writer

The Yuma County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting Friday to adopt a resolution urging Congress to continue full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program in fiscal year 2014.

Because federal land is not taxable by local governments, PILT provides payments to counties to make up for losses in property tax revenues. Congress enacted the program in 1976 to make it possible for local governments to provide police and fire protection, road maintenance, and health services on non-taxable federal land.

In 2013, Yuma County received about $3.2 million in PILT payments, which represents nearly 5 percent of the county’s general fund revenues.

The program expired last year and counties received their last fully funded PILT disbursement in June.

Supervisor Lenore Loroña Stuart traveled to Washington, D.C., last fall to meet with officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior, members of Congress and key Congressional staff in an effort to ensure that the federal payments continue.

“The message that we have been carrying to everyone who will listen is that PILT is one of the most critical federal programs in terms of impact at the county level,” Stuart said.

“At just over 1.5 million entitlement acres, Yuma County has one of the largest classifications of federally reserved lands in the United States. The loss of PILT funding would have devastating effects on our local resources and severely limit Yuma County’s ability to provide critical services,” she added.

The Arizona Association of Counties, representing the elected officials from the state’s 15 counties, also adopted a resolution urging Congress to fully fund the PILT program for 2014.

“These revenues are mission critical to our counties, many of whom have struggled with massive budget and service cuts over the past few years,” said Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, the president of AACo. “PILT is not something Congress should pick and choose to fund. It’s a federal responsibility to local jurisdictions, who absolutely count on that funding for vital services.”

“There are real cuts looming without this funding,” Johnson explained. “Without its $1 million in PILT monies, Santa Cruz faces cutting 20 jobs come July 1st. And in Yuma, the loss of more than $3 million in federal funding could result in 70 lost employees. These are unacceptable cuts when all Congress needs to do is fund a program counties have been relying on for 40 years.”

Arizona has 113,417 square miles of land. Excluding tribal lands, federally-owned land comprises 42 percent of the land mass while private land comprises 17 percent.

The national average PILT payment in fiscal year 2013 was $0.66 per acre, “far below the amount federal lands would return through both value-based taxation and economic development,” stated the county’s press release.

Without annual PILT payments, vital services in all 15 Arizona counties, including law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency services, road building and maintenance, and other community services would be severely impacted, according to the county.

PILT funding remained static for many years until legislation in 1995 adjusted the annual levels for inflation, noted the National Association of Counties.

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act provided full funding for PILT from 2008 through 2012. On July 6, 2012, President Obama signed legislation providing mandatory PILT funding for 2013.

Congress has yet to secure mandatory PILT funding for 2014. Without additional mandatory funding, PILT will revert to a discretionary program subject to annual appropriations.

To find out more about the PILT program, visit www.naco.org.