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Judge Alvin Black, who starts every day by seeing the road crew off, gets an update from grader operator Bart Williams. The county has 1,100 miles of roads, only 100 miles of which are paved.

deposits and its expansive share of the Ouachita National Forest and Lake Ouachita, as well as the Ouachita, Caddo and Little Missouri rivers, the county draws thousands of recreational sportsmen each year. Yet these same attractive natural resources are at the heart of a county financial crunch. Approximately 70 percent of Montgomery County is owned by the federal government — about 60 percent belongs to the National Forest Service; the remaining 10 percent belongs to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Te federal government is not subject to state or local taxes, so less than one-third of the county produces revenue in support of county-paid services. As such, Montgomery County is heavily dependent upon monies generated by the recreation indus- try and provided under federal programs such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self- Determination Act of 2000. “It’s a unique situation for an Arkansas county,” Black said. “It’s

hard for [officials in other counties] to understand why some of us are so concerned about the Forest Service and the federal government.” Te reason for the concern is simple: Te money is in jeopardy.

Interior Sally Jewell announced in June that 59 Arkansas counties would receive $6.3 million in PILT allocations for fiscal year 2014. Montgomery County’s share of that was nearly $645,000, and Judge Black said the money goes into the county’s general fund each year. “It makes up about 25 percent of our general fund revenue,” he


said. “So if that ever gets reduced significantly, it’s going to hurt.” From 2008 to 2012, the PILT program was funded under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Te Moving Ahead


ILT payments compensate counties and local governments for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions. Secretary of the

for Progress in the 21st Century Act provided funding for the pro- gram in 2013. Tis year’s PILT program is the last to be funded un- der the Agriculture Act of 2014, which reauthorized PILT for 2014 and funded the full entitlement levels of the program, according to a news release from the Secretary of Interior’s office. President Barak Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposes to extend mandatory full funding for the program for another year while a sustainable long-term funding solution is developed for the PILT program. “Rural communities contribute

significantly to our nation’s

economy, food and energy supply, and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country,” Secretary Jewell said. “President Obama has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his administration and has fought for continuing the PILT program, which is a lifeline for many local communities.”

he Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 amended the U.S. Forest Service’s payment pro- gram to states and counties containing National Forest Service lands. “It amounts to about one-and-a-half million dollars a year,” Black said of Montgomery County’s share. Te money is divided between the county road department and the three school districts in the county, with some set aside for the county to maintain the forest recreation areas.

T Te act originally expired in 2006 but has been renewed each year

at reduced spending levels. If it is not renewed for 2014, then the payments will be based on guidelines set out in a 1908 act that bases them on timber sales.

See “BLACK” on Page 36 >>> 35


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