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Sighs of relief

Officials assured that city, county won't be hurt by mineral-fund distribution changes

After receiving assurances that Craig and Moffat County won’t lose money, local officials say they aren’t concerned about a change to the way the state distributes federal mineral-leasing dollars.

Officials from the city of Craig and Moffat County attended a meeting in Denver on Wednesday with the Department of Local Affairs to discuss new rules for distributing federal mineral-leasing dollars.

Under existing rules, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs gives money to local governments based on the amount of energy extracted from federal mineral leases within the county of origin.



Under rules proposed by the department last month, the state would dole out money to all counties where energy industry employees live.

The new rules would mean more money for urban areas and less for rural counties and cities.



The changes also would have spread the mineral leasing money across more counties, meaning a smaller share for Moffat County.

The changes will affect only the department’s “third-tier” mineral-leasing funds.

Last year, the department gave out about $2.7 million in third-tier funds. In all, it gave $88.2 million in mineral-leasing funds.

The city of Craig received $502,000 in third-tier money last year. Moffat County received $117,000.

But at Wednesday’s meeting, the Department of Local Affairs decided the new rules won’t change the amount of money given to local governments, at least in 2006.

The changes will take effect, but if local governments receive less money from the department as a result of the changes, the department will make up the difference with grant money.

“I feel very comfortable with this,” Moffat County Commissioner Saed Tayyara said. “This is what I was looking for.”

Craig city manager Jim Ferree said that although there still is work to be done, he is happy with the decision made Wednesday.

The department also formed a task force to review the new rules, specifically the definition of an energy employee, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, deputy executive director of the Department of Local Affairs.

If the state changed the definition of an employee, that could change the number of employees for whom local governments receive mineral-lease funds, Kirkmeyer said.

Moffat County Commiss–ioner Darryl Steele will serve on the task force.

At their meeting last week, commissioners discussed the changes to the mineral-leasing funding.

The mineral-leasing money is necessary because the county doesn’t receive tax revenue from federal leases, Commissioner Tom Gray said.

If the land were privately held, the county would receive tax money for energy extracted from it.

But as long as the federal government owns the mineral rights to the land, the mineral-leasing money from the Department of Local Affairs is necessary, Gray said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.


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