San Juan County receives $2.5 million in PILT money

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — San Juan County will receive $2.5 million from the federal government for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program this year.

PILT payments are made to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes because of the existence of nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on June 23 that it will disburse $549.4 million to states, including New Mexico, which will receive $43.6 million from the program.

The county will receive $2,525,067, a slight increase over the $2,459,114 it got last year.

"San Juan County is glad that the federal government is honoring its commitment to make local governments whole for tax revenues that would otherwise be lost," County Manager Mike Stark said.

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According to Stark, the federal government owns 25% of the land in the county and manages it through the Bureau of Land Management.

The county provides emergency services to those areas through partnerships with federal agencies, he said. This includes services through the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, San Juan County Fire & Rescue, and San Juan Emergency Medical Services.

Pueblo Bonito is pictured in 2019 at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is part of the land administered by the federal government in San Juan County.

"Without a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, San Juan County would face a budget deficit and could be forced to reduce or discontinue services to those areas, which would impact visitors and residents who recreate on federal lands," Stark said. "The PILT program provides a county with much-needed funding to provide essential services to residents and visitors who use and visit federal lands in San Juan County."

According to the Interior Department, PILT payments are made for tax-exempt federal lands administered by the department's agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service.

Payments also cover federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission.

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Mike Stark

The amount disbursed is calculated based on the number of acres of federal land and the population of each county or jurisdiction where the land is located.

"This program is an important example of the federal government's commitment to continuing to be a good neighbor to the communities we serve," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. "The nearly $550 million being distributed will help local governments carry out vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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