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County could lose almost $200,000 in federal funds

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Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013 2:20 pm | Updated: 9:37 am, Mon Dec 23, 2013.

A bipartisan budget agreement in Congress doesn’t include money to cover the payments counties receive to offset the loss of tax revenue on federal lands. Jackson County stands to lose more than $193,000.

Those payments were automatic for five years as part of the federal stimulus package.

County Manager Chuck Wooten, however, described himself as “cautiously optimistic” the payments will continue.

Congressional members have listed the Interior Department’s program a priority; staffers for U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Glenville, have assured Wooten a short-term agreement to restore funding will be in place before Jan. 14, and that a longer-term solution is being sought.

“It looks like our federal elected officials understand the importance of these funds to their constituents,” Wooten said.

There are 80,289 acres of federally owned land in this county.

The Interior Department program, called Payments in Lieu of Taxes, started nearly four decades ago. Since the program started, the federal government has distributed more than $6.3 billion in PILT payments.

For 2013, about 1,900 local governments received $2.54 per acre of private land, adjusted for population. About $421.7 million in PILT payments were authorized for 2013, but sequestration whittled down that amount by some $21.5 million.

Locally, losing more than $193,000 from the general fund “would be a challenge to replace,” Wooten said. “It could result in budget reductions to offset this revenue loss.”

Sylva, NC

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