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$199 million in PILT checks distributed

Crook County's share of the 2001 Payment In Lieu of Taxes is more than $754,000 - well above last year's payment of $468,000
Crook County received more PILT money from the federal government that was expected ... about $286,000 more.
   The Bureau of Land Management recently sent just over $199 million to approximately 1,900 local governments across the nation in accordance with the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Act. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced this year's payment is $65 million more than last year's payment. For Crook County, this year's payment was almost double from last year.
   PILT payments offset the loss of tax revenue to localities caused by the presence of tax-exempt federal land within their jurisdictions. About 50 percent of Crook County is federal lands.
   According to Acting BLM Director Nina Hatfield, the PILT payments are important to the economic well-being of communities. "PILT payments help fund vital community services, such as firefighting and police protection, and construction of hospitals and public schools," Hatfield said. The BLM has distributed more than $2.7 billion in PILT payments to local governments since the program's inception in 1977.
   County Judge Scott Cooper said this year's PILT payment will go to a couple of pretty costly projects. "Some of the funds were already allocated for some acquisitions and improvements. PILT money can be used just like general fund money," he explained, "it doesn't have to be set apart for anything special. The balance of the funds will pay for unforeseen repairs at the library and fairgrounds," he said.
   The BLM distributes the congressionally appropriated PILT payments to eligible units of local governments across the nation and its territories each year. Payments are made for tax-exempt federal lands in the National Park and National Forest systems, federal lands administered by the BLM, lands dedicated to federal water resources development projects, and lands withdrawn from the public domain in other categories.
   The BLM calculates the payments using the PILT Act formula, based on population and the amount of federal land within an affected county or census area. These payments are in addition to federal revenues transferred to the counties under other programs, such as income generated from use of federal land for livestock grazing and timber harvesting.
   All states except Rhode Island, which has minimal federal land, are receiving PILT funds for fiscal year 2001, which ends Sept. 30.
   The counties in the central Oregon region received the following amounts:
   county last year this year
   Crook $468,849 $754,022
   Deschutes $151,324 $247,700
   Jefferson $53,543 $95,455
   Wheeler $56,722 $3,944
   Cooper commented on the fact that the amounts paid out each year is not something that can be counted on. If there were a guaranteed amount every year, he said, "If it were 100 percent of the Congressional appropriation, we could commit to long-term for something like the jail which we so despartely need. But the way it is, we have to use the money on a year-to-year basis."
   The county official said he wasn't complaining, however. "I'm delighted ... this money came in at a critical time, we really need it."
   More in-depth information may be obtained from BLM's website at http://www.blm.gov/pilt.