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They complain about Uncle Sam, but the also cash his checks

Brief by Central Staff

Public Land – December 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

We often hear various rural county commissioners complain about the federal government, but we haven’t heard of any county government that doesn’t cash the federal PILT checks.

PILT is an acronym for Payment In Lieu of Taxes. Governments can’t tax other governments, and so federal land is exempt from local property taxes. But county governments still incur costs when they serve public lands with law enforcement, search and rescue, and the like.

So about 25 years ago, Congress enacted a program to send money every year to county governments with public land. The formula is complicated. It’s based on acreage, of course, but it also considers population and other federal payments, like those based on timber sales or mineral leases.

This year’s Colorado PILT payments were officially announced by Sen. Wayne Allard, who just happens to be up for re-election next year. The Fiscal Year 2001 proceeds for our counties:

Chaffee $557,289

Custer $189,274

Frémont $504,641

Gunnison $274,887

Lake $203,403

Mineral $62,756

Park $654,685

Rio Grande $360,666

Saguache $369,996

Mesa County (Grand Junction is its seat) got $1,347,658, the most in Colorado, while several counties got no PILT funds: Adams, Cheyenne, Denver, Kit Carson, Logan, and Phillips.