San Juan County receives nearly $2.3 million in PILT distributions

Payments are distributed to offset property tax that cannot be collected on federal lands

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Peter, left, and Risa Barajas, of Phoenix, look over a tour book Tuesday at Aztec Ruins National Monument, part of the extensive nontaxable federal land holdings in San Juan County.
  • This year's PILT distribution is the largest in the program's 40-year history.
  • President Trump's budget proposal called for cutting PILT funds.

FARMINGTON — Despite fears that their annual federal payment for nontaxable federal lands would decrease this year, New Mexico and San Juan County received more money this year than in the past, according to data from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

San Juan County received nearly $2.3 million in payment in lieu of taxes and New Mexico received about $38.5 million. This year's distribution is approximately $48,000 more than the county received last year. New Mexico received more than $750,000 more this year than last year.

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The annual payments offset loss of property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands. 

While 1,900 counties nationwide received a total of $464.4 million — the largest distribution in the 40-year history of the program — there was concern earlier this year that PILT could be reduced.

President Donald Trump's budget proposal called for reductions in the PILT program. The proposal did not detail how much the payments would be reduced. Instead, it stated the payments would be "in line with average funding for PILT over the past decade."

Over the past decade, San Juan County has received an average of $2.2 million, and the state has received an average of $33 million, according to Department of the Interior data. 

More:County finalizes budget, talks financial future

According to a press release from New Mexico's U.S. senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, a bipartisan budget agreement to fund the government through September provided the funding for this year's PILT program.

Yvette Hathaway, of Farmington, explores Aztec Ruins National Monument Tuesday with her grandchildren, Lily Orme, left Claire Orme, Evelyn Orme and Madison Orme.

"Rural communities across New Mexico rely on PILT funds to provide for emergency response, maintain roads and bridges, and support local jobs," Heinrich said in the press release. "I am glad we were successful in securing funding for this year’s payments, but we still need permanent funding for PILT to give counties in New Mexico more long-term predictability.”

More:Trump’s proposed public land cuts would hit rural Nevada hardest

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the payments are very important.

"We rely heavily upon this to be able to use for the general fund," he said, adding that the county worries each year about potential decreases to PILT funding.

Nathaniel Osburn, of Tucson, Ariz., explores Aztec Ruins National Monument on Tuesday.

"These investments are one of the ways the federal government is fulfilling its role of being a good land manager and a good neighbor to local communities," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a press release. "Rural America, especially states out west with large federal land holdings, play a big part in feeding and powering the nation and also in providing recreation opportunities, but because the lands are federal, the local governments don't earn tax revenue from them."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.