County recreation PILT cuts ‘will hurt a bit’
by David Boyle
The San Juan County Commission discussed prioritization for Community Impact Board (CIB) funding, recreation funding through PILT and approved appointments to a newly formed Committee to address homelessness at their May 4 meeting.
At the meeting, the commission received a report on county prioritizations for CIB funding for projects.
The Community Impact Board provides loans and grants to counties, cities, and towns in the state of Utah that are impacted by mineral resource development on federal lands.
Because local communities cannot collect taxes from federal lands, a portion of the federal lease fees are returned to the CIB to distribute to the impacted communities.
The board is made up of elected representatives from across the state, including San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams, who represents San Juan, Grand, Carbon and Emery counties on the board.
The CIB, along with all of the cities and towns in San Juan County, sat down and went through a ranking and prioritization list for the year.
County Administrator Mack McDonald explained that being on the list and ranked is a prerequisite for local entities to approach the CIB for funding requests.
At the May 4 meeting, McDonald shared the prioritization list with the commission. The number one project priority for the county is a Flood Management study for the Spanish Valley area.
The number two priority project in San Juan County is a Monticello City Water Rights acquisition, with number three being jail and court expansion at the county public safety building, number four a self-serve potable water fill station in Blanding, and number five is Oljato road improvements.
Other projects in Blanding include a parks, recreation, and trails master plan; a gas utility master plan and rate study; and a lighting and shade structure for the baseball complex.
Bluff Town requests are for secondary water infrastructure and some old school/town hall improvements. Monticello has a project for sewer rehabilitation.
Other regional projects highlighted in the prioritization list include a Microwave Unit replacement for the TV towers on Abajo Peak, a Southeast Utah rail line study, Navajo Mountain Regional Transportation Planning and others.
McDonald explained the county will have a public hearing in May on the requests for the Spanish Valley flood management study and the jail and court expansion. Holding the hearing will allow the county to apply for the CIB funds by a June deadline.
The commission also discussed Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) received from the Utah Division of Finance for Federal Mineral Lease Funds, which comes from the Department of the Interior.
The county receives those funds and then transfers them to the San Juan School District. An agreement between the county and the school district requires $90,000 to be used to support recreation within the county.
Those funds are distributed to towns, cities, chapters, and special service districts in the county, with leftover funds placed into a Public Treasury Investment Fund.
Last year, the county received $239,362 of PILT funding from the federal mineral leases. The funds in excess of $90,000 went into the investment fund, which now has a total of $1,197,103. The county earned $2,318 in interest from the investment fund last year.
“The purpose of the agreement and the account is that in the future, if that PILT ever goes away, all of us will still be able to guarantee the $90,000 a year,” McDonald continued. “So, this is setting up an account that will generate a future payment to all the towns, cities, chapters, and special service districts in the future.”
McDonald explained that since 2015, the allocation has been a bit more than the agreed upon $90,000.
“We’ve been allocating $9,710 more than what the contract said that we were going to spend,” McDonald said. “I don’t know the reasons why.
“It may have just been somebody put the wrong number in the spreadsheet, and we continued that on year after year.”
As a result, the county is cutting back the $9,710 in allocations, using updated population counts as a guide for how to make the cuts.
The $45,000 provided to the Navajo Chapters and the $1,000 provided to White Mesa Ute Council will remain the same, but reductions are being made to other recreation programs.
Bluff has previously received $6,000 and will now instead receive $2,000. La Sal will go from $3,000 to $2,000. Monticello will go from $15,000 to $13,636 and Blanding will go from $26,710 to $26,365.
The Spanish Valley Special Service District will go from $3,000 to zero, with McDonald explaining that the agreement did not allow for recreation funds going to a water district.
McDonald also explained that since the Blanding and Monticello recreation programs serve much of the county, there was an attempt to minimize their cuts in allocations.
“It’s going to hurt everybody a little on this to get back to that $90,000,” said McDonald. “The end goal of all of this is to continue to create and add to an account that is a little bit more sustainable.”
The commission voted to approve the 2021 allocation of PILT funds, with recommendation from Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy to have the county reach out to Navajo Nation Chapter managers to understand how the chapters use the recreation funds.
The commission also approved appointments to the San Juan County Local Homeless Committee.
This committee will be tasked with oversight of $50,000 of grant funding received for Rapid Rehousing Initiatives throughout the county.
The commission also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, which is providing $10,000 for equipment in the Monticello Library co-working space.
The newly available space in the basement of the library will provide workspace for travelers and new businesses.