As Congress begins to firm up its appropriations bills, NACo has prepared a bundle of advocacy tools and resources, available online, to help counties seek congressional support for FY16 Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and FY17 Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments.
Counties can access a customizable sample letter telling their congressional delegation how inaction would impact their residents.
Likewise, there are custom op-eds and sample press releases to send to state and local media. On the social media front, there are sample tweets to alert the public and Congress about a county’s support for SRS and PILT funding.
More than 60 percent of America’s counties contain federal public lands.
While the counties cannot collect property taxes on the land, they must still provide essential services for their residents and for visitors to the federal holdings within their boundaries.
Services such as road and bridge maintenance, law enforcement and solid waste disposal remain the local government’s responsibility.
Congress established the PILT program to compensate counties for the tax losses they incur because of public lands within their jurisdictions. President Gerald Ford signed the program into law in 1976.
The Secure Rural Schools payments are an outgrowth of another federal program which shared 25 percent of the revenue from timber sales on public lands with so-called forest counties. Counties used the money to support schools and roads, principally.
As timber sales declined steeply in the ’80s and ’90s due to new federal regulations about species habitat and the environment, timber receipts also plummeted.
In 2000, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was enacted to offset the timber harvest losses.
In 2015, the program provided $278 million for 732 mostly rural counties scatted throughout the U.S. The last authorization expired on Sept. 30, 2015.