Clallam, Jefferson counties get $2.1 million in federal compensatory payments

By:  Peninsula Daily News - Rob Ollikainen
Source: Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam and Jefferson counties have received a combined $2.08 million — and far more than either county expected — from a federal program that reimburses rural counties for the presence of non-taxable federal lands.

Clallam received $800,289 in payment in lieu of taxes, or PILT, funding this year. That’s more than double the $387,000 it budgeted and a sharp rise from the $488,960 it took in last year.

Jefferson County received $1.28 million from PILT this year. That’s double the $641,500 it got last year and nearly three times the $430,000 it budgeted in 2013.

Examples of federal entities that don’t pay local taxes are national forests and parks, the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The federal money is funneled into a county’s general fund, meaning it can be used to cover revenue shortfalls or pay for capital improvements.

Jefferson County Administrator Philip Morley said money likely will be used to make major repairs to facilities and bolster the county’s revenue stabilization reserve.

Morley said the payment will be treated as a windfall because PILT’s future “is still very uncertain.”

“It’s coming at a great time,” said Clallam County Administrator Jim Jones, “because so far, the sales tax and real estate excise taxes and investment interest are not coming in quite as high as we had hoped. So this is a good thing and real beneficial.”

Mandatory full funding of the program is set expire at the end of this year unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who championed PILT through her role in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced the payments to rural counties last week.

“This is a major investment for jobs and communities on the Olympic Peninsula,” said Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, in a statement.

“The PILT program is a matter of fairness for counties with federal lands. . . . I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to continue these proven investments in rural communities throughout Washington state.”

Grays Harbor County received $158,833 in 2013 PILT funds, while Mason County took in $195,957. The increase for the South Olympic Peninsula counties was about 40 percent from 2012.

“Some counties got less, some counties got about the same, and some counties got more,” Morley said.

“We’re delighted to get more,” he said, adding that he couldn’t explain the reason for the discrepancy.

All told, rural counties in the state received $17.22 million in this year’s PILT.

“It’s kind of one of those things: You never really know how much you’re going to get,” Jones said.

“But this is great. We really appreciate it. When the federal government can step up, and in the budget process see their way clear to make these kinds of payments, that’s real helpful.”