Mesa County to get millions from PILT funding

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- Mesa County is getting $3.4 million from PILT funding or the Payment In Lieu of Taxes.

The government pays back counties for federal lands because the counties can't collect property taxes from them. But, Mesa County isn't the only county getting this payment.

"This funding is just one more example of promises made and promises kept by the President and Secretary Zinke," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

Nearly 60 governments in Colorado are getting some of the more than $550 million being shoveled out across the US. It’s the biggest chunk of money the government had given out for PILT. Bernhardt said Colorado’s portion is nine percent higher than 2017’s PILT funding.

"It goes into our general fund, and we can use it for a lot of different things," said John Justman, a Mesa County Commissioner.

Much of the land on the Western Slope is federal land, and that can create problems for counties that may only own a small percentage of land.

"That's really challenging when they're trying to have completive economies throughout the region," said Christian Reece, the executive director of Club 20.

Mesa County is made up of more than 70 percent of federal lands. A majority of Rio Blanca County is also composed of federal lands.

"PILT funding for us in Rio Blanco County is very, very important," said Jef Regtor, a Rio Blanco County Commissioner. "PILT is very critical for us right now to help us maintain our roads, to keep our search rescue, and our sheriff's office running."

Counties can use the funds for just about anything they may need.

"It means that we care about these rural communities, and we're here to be partners with them and collaborate with them, and that's what we plan to do," said Bernhardt.

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