HELENA – On August 14 the Lewis and Clark County Commission unanimously agreed to join a class action lawsuit to recover additional sums under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act (PILT Act).
According to the lawsuit, for 2015-17 PILT recipients did not receive the full amount to which they were entitled based on the Department of the Interior’s full payment calculation.
Lewis and Clark County expects to recover an estimated $95,000 minus legal fees.
The County Commission agree the lawsuit is about ensuring the county receiving proper compensation for services like search and rescue on federal lands.
“Some of the burdens that are put on our [local agencies], I think it’s really important that the federal government pay its fair share,” said Commissioner Susan Good Geise.
“I’m not personally a fan of participating in class action lawsuits,” said Commissioner Jim McCormick, ”This is simply putting the county on the list of counties who will benefit from this.”
Authorized in 1976, PILT payments help offset losses to local governments for operations such as firefighting and police protection on federal lands.
The statue was originally worded to allow for payment to be subject to the congressional appropriations process.
In 2008 Congress amended the PILT statue by mandating full funding through 2014.
For 2015-17 insufficient appropriations caused over 1,900 counties across the nation that were eligible for PILT to be underfunded.
In 2017, Kane County, UT filled and won a lawsuit seeking to recover its underpayments and those of all other PILT recipients.
The lawsuit is being handled by the law firm Smith, Currie and Hancock.
As of Aug. 14 over 40 Montana counties have signed onto the class action and in total Montana is estimated to be owed $1.2 million in underpayments through PILT.