Natrona County officials are breathing a little easier now that it will receive more than $3.7 million under a federal tax relief program.

Thursday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced all Wyoming counties will receive a total of $30.2 million from the federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

Natrona County tops the list with $3,725,447, according to a news release from the Interior Department.

Earlier this month, county commissioners heard from department heads as they worked on the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year beginning July 1.

Commission Chairman Rob Hendry said the county would face a serious budget crisis without the PILT money that goes into the general fund and is distributed from there, he said.

"We had to have it to balance our budget, but it's critically important for to have that money, the Payment in Lieu of Taxes money, for roads and everything else, the sheriff, the whole works," Hendry said.

"If it's up three or four hundred thousand, that's three or four hundred thousand we can really use," he said.

The budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year will be tight, and has yet to be set by the commissioners, but it will be in the range of $48 million to $50 million, Hendry said. The commissioners will work on the budget again on Tuesday, and it should be ready for final approval on July 15, he said.

The budget contains a proposed 3% raise for county employees, but that isn't certain, either, he said.

Sales tax revenues are expected to be slightly more than they were in the past fiscal year, but not by much, Hendry said.

The budget also depends on how much money was budgeted in the past fiscal year that was not spent and is being carried forward, Hendry said. "We're just trying to get a better feel for those numbers."

The PILT program was set up in 1977 because local governments cannot tax federal property, according to the Department of Interior.

The payments are calculated base on the federal acreage in each county or jurisdiction and on the population. The federal lands include the national forest and park systems; lands in the Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Program; areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management; areas managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Bureau of Reclamation water resource development; and others, according to the news release.

The Department of Interior collects more than $11.9 billion a year from commercial activities on public lands such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues is shared with states and counties, according to the news release. "The rest is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding."


These are the Wyoming counties that received PILT funding:

Albany -- $1,563,009.
Big Horn -- $1,175,185.
Campbell -- $947,766.
Carbon -- $1,314,622.
Converse -- $985,125.
Crook -- $791,272.
Fremont -- $2,709,175.
Goshen -- $75,616.
Hot Springs -- $851,562.
Johnson -- $1,006,158.
Laramie -- $26,317.
Lincoln -- $1,393,466.
Natrona -- $3,725,447.
Niobrara -- $347,671.
Park -- $2,071,732.
Platte -- $293,867.
Sheridan -- $1,039,255.
Sublette -- $939,860.
Sweetwater -- $3,453,684.
Teton -- $2,015,808.
Uinta -- $1,541,909.
Washakie -- $1,195,552.
Weston -- $746,137.

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