Mohave County Board of Supervisors agree to join lawsuit asking for more PILT funds

August 7, 2018

Mohave County has decided to join in a class action suit brought against the federal government by Kane County, Utah, demanding repayment of taxes owed from mineral rights on state lands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.

The decision came with some trepidation.

“I had heard what if the feds don’t like us if we do this,” said Supervisor Buster Johnson. “Who cares? It’s the money that’s due to the people of Mohave County. It’s like you borrow money and then you don’t want to pay it back.”

If successful in the lawsuit, Mohave County’s share of the repayment for 2015-17 shortages is estimated at nearly $93,000.

The Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, or Pilt, is reserved for local governments – mostly rural counties – that contain non-taxable federal lands and provide vital services, such as public safety, housing, social services and transportation.

These jurisdictions provide significant support for national parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas. The funding stream is paid to local governments to offset losses in property taxes because of the nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

Last year more than 1,900 local governments received $464.6 million in PILT money. Mohave County’s share was nearly $3.6 million.

“Every year we pick up a little more support,” Johnson said. “It’s tough … to get congressmen involved when their constituents aren’t complaining.”

To date, Cochise, Yuma and Navajo counties have joined the lawsuit.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, has taken up the fight for PILT, introducing a bill in Congress asking for full funding of the taxation program.

“I had a problem with this, because I didn’t want to seem like we were undermining our congressman who has worked so hard on this issue,” said Supervisor Hildy Angius. “We got back a lot of our PILT last year, but this lawsuit is what was owed to us in 2015-17.”

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