Many of Missouri’s county officials are watching the quarrelling Congress with some concern, wondering if a big part of their budgets might not come through next June. 

The federal government owns 2,060,556 acres of land in Missouri, most of it national forest land in southern Missouri.  That’s land that is not on tax rolls of 69 of Missouri’s 114 counties. The federal government  in the last fiscal year sent $3,079,132 to those counties as payments in lieu of taxes.

But those payments have to be authorized every year.  And every year, county officials wait anxiously for that to happen.

Executive Director Dick Burke of the Missouri Association of Counties says those payments arrive halfway through the county fiscal years, and a delay in payment or a failure to authorize the funds would be devastating. “Most of these counties are very rural, not a lot of tax base,” he says.  He calls the payments a “core part” of their budgets.

Southeast Missouri’s Wayne County, where about 13,000 people live,  got the most federal PILT funds last June, more than $196,500. About 27% of the land there is federally-owned.  The state conservation department also owns about a dozen chunks of Wayne County land.  The department also makes payments to counties in lieu of taxes.

AUDIO: Burke interview 2:45