FAQs

Updated: November 25, 2013

FAQs for Title I-Secure Payments for States and Counties

On October 2, 2013 Congress passed a one year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act as part of HR 527 Helium Stewardship Act. Additional information will continue to be posted as it becomes available.

Elections and Allocations

What are the county election and allocation timelines for FY 2013?

The deadline for an affected county to elect to receive a share of either the 25-percent payment to the State or the Secure Rural Schools Act State payment is December 31, 2013.  This is also the deadline for county that elects to receive a share of the State payment to elect to allocate its share among titles I, II and III.   More information is in the Election and Allocation Guidelines.

What are the election choices?

Each county in an eligible state must elect to receive one of the following payments for federal fiscal year 2013:

(1) a share of the State’s 25-percent rolling average payment, OR

(2) a share of the State payment.

Is each county in which national forests are situated required to make an active election of which payment to receive?

It is in the best interest of counties to actively make an election of which payment to receive.  If the Forest Service does not receive the county’s election to receive payment from the State by the December 31, 2013 (midnight, Mountain Time) deadline the county shall be considered to have elected to receive a share of the State payment. 

Are there any changes in the allocation requirements for FY2013?

What happens if an eligible county does not allocate its share of the State payment?

If an eligible county’s allocation of its share of the State payment is not transmitted by the State to the Forest Service by December 31, 2013 (midnight, Mountain Time), the county shall be considered to have elected to expend 80 percent of its share of the State payment for public schools and roads. The remaining 20-percent will be available to the Forest Service to carry out projects in the eligible county to further the purposes of title II. The Act does not require that the Forest Service’s use of the remaining 20-percent be reviewed or recommended by a resource advisory committee.

Does the county have to transmit its election through the Governor’s office?

The Act requires that a county’s election to receive a payment and an eligible county’s election to allocate its share of the State payment be transmitted by the Governor of each eligible State.  The Forest Service acting on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture will accept elections transmitted by the Governor’s office or other appropriate executive office of the State, such as State Treasurer, on behalf of the Governor. 

The Forest Service will not accept an election directly from a county or from any organization acting on behalf of a county.  The Forest Service does not require the State to submit documentation of the Governor’s designation of another State official to transmit the county elections on behalf of the Governor.

Payment

When will the county receive its share of the FY2013 State payment or the 25-percent payment?

The schools and roads portion of the State payment and the funds allocated to title III will be paid to the State at the begining of calendar year 2014.  Generally, the State distributes the payment to eligible counties shortly after the payment is received.   The 25-percent payment to the states is made in the same manner.

Is the 7-year  rolling average 25-percent payment permanent or will the old formula be reinstated?

The change to 25-percent 7-year rolling average was made in 2008 by Public Law 110-343.  It is a permanent change and will not change after final payments are made under the Secure Rural Schools Act. 

Payments in lieu of taxes (PILT)

Is the Secure Rural Schools Act State payment a payment in lieu of taxes?

No.  The Secure Rural Schools Act State payment is separate from the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) made by the Department of the Interior.

The Secure Rural Schools Act amends the Act of May 23, 1908 (16 USC 500) that directs the Secretary of the Treasury to make an annual payment to the States based on national forest receipts.  The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service coordinates with the Treasury to make the payments.  The States distribute the payment among counties in which national forests are situated for the benefit of public schools and roads.  The distribution is in proportion to the acreage of national forest in the county.

Beginning in 1908 the payment was 25-percent of the moneys received annually. Since 2008 the payments are based on 25-percent of the 7-year rolling average annual receipts. These payments are commonly called 25-percent payments.   

Under the Secure Rural Schools Act an eligible county elects to receive a share of the Secure Rural Schools Act State payment or a share of the 25-percent payment to the state. 

What is the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT)? 

The Department of the Interior makes the PILT payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.  More information about PILT is on the Department of the Interior web site, http://www.doi.gov/pilt/index.cfm

The PILT payments are made annually for tax-exempt Federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (all bureaus of the Interior Department), the U.S. Forest Service (an agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and for Federal water projects and some military installations.

The formula used to compute the payments is contained in the PILT Act (31 USC Chapter 69) and is based on population, receipt sharing payments, and the amount of Federal land within an affected county.  PILT payments are in addition to other Federal revenues (such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, and timber harvesting) that the Federal Government transfers to the States.

What is the relationship between PILT payments and Secure Rural Schools Act payments?

A county that has been receiving PILT payments in addition to its 25-percent payment continues to receive a PILT payment.

A county's PILT payment may be reduced if the county receives a share of the State payment that is larger than its share of the 25-percent payment would have been.  The PILT payment formula considers other prior year Federal land payments in its calculation.  Counties that receive increased funding under the Secure Rural Schools Act may find that their PILT payments are reduced. This will not affect counties already receiving mandatory minimum PILT payments (i.e., counties that already receive large Federal land payments).  PILT payments for these counties would remain unchanged.

In general, only the roads portion of the schools and roads allocation (commonly called title I) and the title III allocation is considered in the PILT calculation.  The portion of the State payment allocated for schools and the title II allocation are not considered in the PILT formula.