Flathead County will receive more than $2.5 million this year from the federal government’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, the Department of Interior announced on June 22.
The payment is part of more than $451 million that will be distributed to 1,900 counties in the coming months. Interior officials said it was the largest payment in the PILT program’s history. Montana will receive $30.2 million statewide.
The money goes to counties where large swaths of land are held by the federal government and thus cannot be taxed. The money supports schools, road projects and first responders.
“Rural communities contribute significantly to our nation’s economy, food and energy supply, and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “These investments often serve as a lifeline for local communities as they juggle planning and paying for basic services like public safety, housing, social services and transportation.”
Other counties in Northwest Montana benefiting from the PILT funds include Lincoln County, which is getting $635,000, Sanders County, which will receive $333,584, Lake County, with $431,900, and Glacier County, which will receive $1 million.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposes to return the PILT program to mandatory funding at $480 million annually, which would ensure funding stability for the program and local communities year after year.
“These investments are one of the ways the federal government can fulfill its role of being a good neighbor to local communities,”Jewell said. “President Obama has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his Administration and has fought for continuing the PILT program. We encourage Congress to take the required action to make sure this important program continues.”
In 2015, Montana received $27 million in PILT payments including $2.2 million for Flathead County. Flathead County has 2.44 million acres of federal land, the most in the state followed by Beaverhead County, with 2.05 million acres.