County budget to receive $644,300 boost

Lincoln County’s budget planners received good news this week, when the United States Department of the Interior announced the county would receive $644,300 in PILT funding for the 2017 fiscal year.

PILT, or Payment In Lieu of Taxes, is federal funding provided to counties with a large amount of federal land ownership, land that is not part of the county’s taxable property base. PILT monies are not as restricted as other federal funding sources, so the funds provide much greater flexibility for county governments.

Lincoln County Administrator Darren Coldwell said he was pleased to receive news of the funding. Combined with changes in county operations, the PILT funds give the county the opportunity to get the budget back onto a positive track.

“PILT gives us the opportunity to help shore up the budget,” he said. “One nice thing about PILT is that the restrictions are not as limiting as other sources. It is still my hope that with other budget adjustments and with creative incentives for employees we can start improving our reserves.”

Sen. Steve Daines praised Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his work in releasing the PILT funding.

“PILT payments are essential for Montana’s rural counties—to keep our public services operating,” Daines said in a June 27, 2017, press release. “The PILT program provides critical support for the safety of Montana’s rural counties. Thank you Secretary Zinke for releasing this important funding.”

Sen. Jon Tester, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, vowed to keep fighting for future PILT funding despite the 15 percent cut included in President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal.

“PILT payments help Montana counties provided critical services and keep a balanced budget,” Tester said in a June 26, 2017, press release. “Local officials will use these resources to build roads, support important infrastructure projects, and bolster local police and fire departments. I know how important PILT payments are to Montana, and I will keep fighting to secure these essential investments for rural communities.”