SHERIDAN — The county commissioners Tuesday voted to join a class-action lawsuit against the federal government to recover payments in lieu of taxes the county is owed.

The federal government provides PILT to local governments that maintain federal lands. Governments cannot collect property taxes on federal lands within their boundaries and PILT are designed to help local governments provide services like firefighting, police presence, schools and road maintenance to those lands.

The lawsuit began in 2017 in Kane County, Utah, after Congress did not appropriate enough money to fully fund its PILT obligations in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Last December, a court ruled in favor of Kane County and certified the lawsuit as a class action.

Since then, hundreds of counties from 48 states have joined the lawsuit.

Deputy County Attorney Clint Beaver said Sheridan County can join the class action lawsuit at no cost or risk.

“In my experience this is somewhat unique, but I would say there is a very, very high likelihood of success,” Beaver said. “Basically, the case is already won.”

County administrative director Renee Obermueller said Sheridan County is owed about $37,000 in PILT payments from that three-year period.

Commissioner Bob Rolston explained while Sheridan County receives a relatively small amount in PILT payments, other counties are reliant on the federal funding.

“You take counties like that county down in Utah, [PILT payments] keep them going,” Rolston said. “I think the fact that other counties are tying on to help them in this class-action suit is a very good thing.”

Commissioner Terry Cram added that Sheridan County could also use the $37,000 it is owed.

PILT payments were fully funded in 2018 and, in total, Wyoming counties received about $32 million in federal funding.

Natrona County received the largest PILT payment at $3.6 million. 

According to the county budget, Sheridan County received about $1.1 million in PILT payments during the last fiscal year.