County to receive federal funds

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Moffat County commissioners said Tuesday they appreciate money from the federal government for public lands, but they don't like the formula used to distribute them.

Moffat County will receive $330,794 in 2005 from the Department of the Interior in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

PILT funds are given to counties for public lands that aren't on county tax rolls, including Bureau of Land Management lands and Dinosaur National Monument.

Counties also receive PILT funding for any military installations within their borders.

Moffat County has more PILT-entitled acres than any county in the state.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said he appreciates the work Colorado's congressional delegation does to keep PILT funds coming into Moffat County, but he wants to see the formula by which the funds are distributed change.

Steele estimates the county would receive $1.2 million in property taxes if all the county's public lands were owned privately.

"They take that million two and run it through a formula based on population," Steele said. "It reduces the amount because we're not a populated area."

PILT funds also are reduced by the amount of mineral severance taxes a county receives.

Stephen Myers, a spokesman for Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Loveland, said the senator has not looked into the way PILT funds are distributed.

Meyers said the senator's concern in recent months has been maintaining PILT funding, not the way the funds are distributed.

Last year, Moffat County received $317,051 in PILT funds.

PILT funds go into the county's general fund, meaning they can be used for almost any county business.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara said he was relieved to see an increase in PILT funding this year.

"We were afraid they were going to cut it," Tayyara said.

Tayyara said he was concerned Congress would cut PILT funds by as much as 25 percent.

The commissioners wrote letters earlier this year urging Allard, Sen. Ken Salazar, R-Denver, and Rep. John Salazar, R-Manassa, not to cut PILT funding.

The commissioners said PILT funding can be a divisive political issue in Congress because most of PILT funds go to Western states, where there are more public lands.

Colorado counties will receive $16.8 million in PILT funds.

Mesa County is set to receive the most PILT funding at $1,561,000.

The smallest PILT appropriation will go to Washington County, $158.

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