N.M. counties to see increase in PILT payments

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By The Staff

Under a new law signed this week, Los Alamos County and other counties statewide will receive additional money in PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payments through 2012.

Los Alamos, however, will see a slight decrease in what it receives. It received $48,792 in June and $49,344 in 2007.

PILT payments are funded to counties by the federal government for lost revenue on public land, and were included in the economic rescue plan passed by Congress and signed by President Bush last Friday.

The Bureau of Land Management is still in the process of calculating those increases, so they are not yet available.

Sen. Pete Domenici’s office released a statement last week announcing the increase in PILT payments.

Under the PILT program, which benefits 32 of New Mexico's 33 counties, Domenici said the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act significantly increases the payments.

The PILT program is fully funded by the bill through 2012, which means counties could see a 20 to 30 percent increase in their PILT payments.

According to a press release from the senator's office, the new law also extends the U.S. Forest Services’ Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination payment program for four years, providing a significant first-year payment increase for 22 New Mexico counties.

Those payments would then decrease 10 percent annually through 2011. As a result, 22 New Mexico counties would see payments increasing overall from $2.38 million in 2006 to $21.5 million for 2008.

“The PILT programs is a mainstay revenue source for many New Mexico counties and our new law will mean that these counties get a more fair share of the revenue they lose because of government-held lands,” Domenici said. “For all the noise surrounding the economic rescue package, there are some good things in it that will directly benefit the people of New Mexico. The PILT payments are one such benefit.”

“Extending the Rural Schools program will also mean more time and resources for counties to adjust to the possibility that these payments will end in the future.”

The Bureau of Land Management released $22.4 million in 2008 PILT payments to New Mexico counties in June, which included PILT funds that are paid, in addition to revenue from oil and gas leases and sales of minerals, timber and other materials to compensate for certain tax exempt federal lands.

Counties could share at least $250,000 more in federal payments next year, based on the 2008 PILT payments, although overall PILT distributions fluctuate from year to year.

The top five New Mexico counties receiving the largest amounts of PILT funds are: Eddy, $1.88 million; Otero, $1.86 million; Chaves, $1.69 million; Doña Ana, $1.68 million; and Rio Arriba, $1.57 million.