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Lincoln, Franklin counties suing Uncle Sam

Lincoln County has joined hundreds of other governments across the nation in a lawsuit against the federal government seeking to recover missed payments for hosting federal property.

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors on Monday voted unanimously to become a co-plaintiff in the ongoing federal lawsuit Kane County, Utah vs. United States, which alleges the federal government owes backpay for “rent” on federal properties it skipped when Congress underfunded the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act — which reimburses local governments for hosting non-taxable federal properties like courthouses, post offices and other federal property — in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Board attorney Bob Allen said he joined the suit on the final day new plaintiffs were allowed, and supervisors retroactively approved the decision Monday.

“They’ve already ruled the government underfunded and that counties are entitled to a refund — they just haven’t ruled on how much that refund is supposed to be,” he said. “We get these funds and were shorted like everybody else.”

The federal government owes Lincoln County reimbursement for its portion of the Homochitto National Forest, which takes up around 20,000 acres around Caseyville in the northwestern corner of the county. The county has been sent an average of $2,700 per year in PILOT payments since 2012, though the county’s chunk of national forest reimbursement for 2018 jumped to $8,275 with no explanation.

The money won’t make or break Lincoln County, but its neighbor to the west has high hopes for the lawsuit — Franklin County Chancery Clerk Jill Jordan Gilbert said her county was getting $1.3 million per year for Homochitto payments back in 2008, but only received $611,000 for Fiscal Year 2018.

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors splits the haul with the Franklin County School District. Gilbert said the board has joined the Kane County lawsuit.

“We are not sure at this point about the amount we will be getting, but hopefully and prayerfully, it will be substantial,” she said.