County to join PILT class-action suit

By: 
Alexis Barker

Weston County will join 17 of the 23 Wyoming counties in the PILT class action lawsuit against the federal government. The Weston County commissioners were made aware of their eligibility for the lawsuit in July, but were waiting to make the decision to join the lawsuit until their regular meeting on Sept. 4, 10 days before the deadline, according to County Clerk Jill Sellers. 

The lawsuit alleges that the federal government did not pay counties the entirety of the funds owed in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The payment in lieu of taxes program attempts to compensate counties for the lost tax revenue from federally owned lands.

Weston County received funds for each of the years cited – just not the full amount the county believes it should have received. Sellers told the commissioners on Sept. 4 that the county would be expected to gain about $15,000 through the lawsuit. 

Sellers had previously explained to the News Letter Journal that attorney fees will come with the lawsuit, with that expense taken out of the payment to Weston County. She also noted that the federal government also has the ability to appeal the lawsuit but believes it is unlikely. 

“I just checked briefly. We fit the definition you have to fit to be qualified to get the money,” County Attorney William Curley said on July 3. “The right court already ruled that the language of the act does not give the government the option to opt out if the funds are available. The court says they are obligated and they need to make the funds available.” 

PILT payments were established in 1976, when Congress passed the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act, which has since been amended three times.

On Sept. 4, the commissioners voted unanimously to join the lawsuit. 

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