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Habitat, recreational land to receive increased State funds in Kittitas County

Habitat, recreational land to receive increased State funds in Kittitas County

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash. - Kittitas County will finally receive payments for wildlife habitat and recreation land.

The State Legislature had promised the county along with other eastern Washington counties a share of payments known as "payments in lieu of taxes", or PILT for Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) managed land.

The Kittitas County Commissioners, State Representatives and others called the State Legislature for more funds in 2017 for local governments as part of the state budget.

Rural counties and environmental groups worked alongside WDFW to raise the awareness of the underfunded of the underfunded program, noting PILT is critical to local governments in rural areas such as Kittitas County with vast state-owned land, according to a county press release.

Kittitas County was noted as having the most properties eligible for PILT in the state, but was also the most underpaid.

“We felt like the state was breaking a promise they had made to local taxpayers decades ago by not funding this program adequately," said Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell, who helped lead the PILT effort.

The legislature ultimately agreed with the request and increased the payments statewide by a little over $1 million per year beginning in 2018.

PILT payments had not increased in the state’s budget since 2009, the release said.

Commissioners said the funds owed to the county in PILT that went unpaid by the state were over $2,000,000 since 2011.

As a result of the increase, Kittitas County’s general fund will additionally receive over $49,000 per year, over $32,000 to fund country roads and over $2,000 for flood control.

Some school districts in the area will also benefit from the increase.

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