TALLADEGA -- The Talladega County Commission voted 4-0 Monday night to join a class action lawsuit against the federal government for underpayment of Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for the past three years.
Commission Greg Atkinson was not present.
According to a fact sheet provided by County Administrator Pat Lyles, the suit originated in Kane County, Utah, and other local governments were recently certified as a class by the United States Court of Federal Claims.
PILT payments, Lyles explained, are funds paid by the federal government to local governments that have federal lands that cannot be taxed inside their boundaries, including national parks.
“In the fiscal years 2015-17, the amount appropriated by Congress for PILT payments was insufficient to satisfy all statutory PILT obligations,” according to the sheet. “The agency administering the PILT program, the Department of the Interior, is prohibited by law from spending more than Congress appropriates. So in the fiscal years 2015-2017, the Department of the Interior paid out the available funds on a pro-rata basis, but those payments were less than what each unit of local government was entitled to receive.”
It goes on to explain that “in the 2011 Budget Control Act, in an attempt to lower the deficit, Congress set annual spending caps for subsequent fiscal years. The budget Congress enacted for FY 2015 exceeded the cap for that year, and the U.S. Treasury was required to withhold, or ‘sequester’ amounts exceeding that cap.
“The PILT appropriation for FY 2015, already insufficient to make full PILT payments, was further reduced by this sequestration. Kane County did not seek to recover the additional underpayment resulting from sequestration because the Court of Federal Claims had ruled in an earlier lawsuit that units of local government are not entitled to recover that portion of PILT funds eliminated by sequestration.”
Net recoveries are expected to range from $100 to $130,000 or more. Legal fees will be taken from the total money awarded by the court, with no out-of-pocket expense to the governing bodies in the class.
Although no more money has been appropriated by Congress for the PILT program for the years in question, a permanent, indefinite fund known as the Judgement Fund has been established to pay the entities involved in the suit.
Lyles said she could not say Monday how much the county might gain by participating in the suit, but according to the U.S. Department of the Interior website, the county may be owed as much as $89,000 for fiscal 2018 alone.
Also Monday, the commission:
Tabled a request from the Talladega County Economic Development Authority and the state Legislature regarding the city of Lincoln’s 2-cent sales and use tax until pending litigation is resolved;
Opened bids for food and dairy products for the county jail; no bids were received for bread;
Opened highway department bids for various materials needed in the coming fiscal year;
Approved Chairman Kelvin Cunningham signing an Emergency Management Agency performance grant for $38,107;
Approved a long-term detention subsidy with Coosa Valley Youth Detention Center for juvenile crime suspects;
Approved payment of the incentives for the Marble City Square project in Sylacauga;
Approved a job description for an accounting manager, which will be posted;
Announced a community cleanup Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Talladega County Central High School sponsored by Cunningham;
Announced a community cleanup Saturday, Sept. 22, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Fayetteville sponsored by Commissioner Mally Limbaugh, and
Announced the next commission meeting would be Monday, Sept. 24, with a work session at 5 p.m. and full meeting at 6.