World Editorial Board: Promises Count

March 13, 2017

Read the Wenatchee World Editorial Board’s recent piece on PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) in Washington state. PILT refers to federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries.

“Public lands managed for conservation or natural resources are a boost for our economy and a blessing to our future quality of life. When trouble comes, it comes in property tax bills. When an agency expands its holdings, and private land becomes public, there is a property tax shift. The rest of us share the bill.

This is enough for many counties to view public lands as a burden, and expansion of public lands as a threat. The agencies normally compensate by offering counties payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILT. Fine, except the state is known not to keep its promises. PILT payments tempted cash-short legislators, who raided the accounts. PILT funds to 13 counties for Fish and Wildlife land have been frozen at 2009 levels. The shortage comes to $4.5 million over two years, spare change in Olympia but big money in Okanogan, Ellensburg or Davenport. In Okanogan County, with 78,000 acres owned by Fish and Wildlife, the shortage exceeds $1 million for the next two-year budget cycle, much of it due to schools and taxing districts. It is important money, and big money.”

Read the full article on the Wenatchee World website.