Chaves County has received more than $3 million from the federal government for the federal lands in the county, officials said Tuesday.
The $3.1 million payment, called the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, is paid annually to counties and other local governmental entities that have within their taxing areas public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or other federal agencies. The payment just received for Chaves County is for the 2016-17 fiscal year, ending June 30.
“It was a little bigger than we budgeted, but we always budget a little low,” said County Manager Stanton Riggs.
The Chaves County payment was part of the $38.5 million paid to 32 counties and municipalities in New Mexico and the $464.9 million paid nationwide to 1,900 county and local governments, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Interior.
This year’s payments were the largest made in the 40-year history of the program, the news release indicated. The payments to local entities are determined by size of acreage and area population. The Interior Department earns more than $8.8 billion a year from commercial and recreational use of federal land.
Concerns about how much the county will receive in future PILT payments, given uncertainties with federal funding, as well as questions the county has about other federal and state monies it is expecting to receive, were part of the reason that Chaves County commissioners recently voted to approve a one-twelfth of one percent sales tax increase, scheduled to go into effect in January. County officials can decide to rescind the tax ordinance before or after January should they decide that the additional revenues are not needed. County staff have said the tax, which will mean an extra 8 cents for every $100 of eligible goods or services purchased, will bring in about $850,000 a year.
Chaves County Board of Commission Chair Robert Corn was quoted in an Interior Department news release about the importance of PILT to the area.
“Money we receive from PILT helps to fund roads, public safety and support the local sheriff’s department to help keep citizens and the community safe,” he said.
In its preliminary 2017-18 budget, the county has projected that next year’s PILT payment also will be about $3.1 million.