County joins class action suit

Suit claims PILT not fully paid out for Indian land

Shawano County is joining a lawsuit against the federal Department of Interior in hopes of picking up a share of increased financial reimbursement for lost tax base that the suit maintains the DOI hasn’t paid out for the last three years.

The lawsuit in question is Kane County, Utah v. United States, a class action lawsuit allowing local governments like Shawano County to opt in to qualify for a potential financial award owed to it under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act.

The PILT payments pertain to the amount of land a county has within its borders held in trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe, such as the Stockbridge and Ho-Chunk tribes in Shawano County.

The PILT Act has been around for decades, but was expanded in 2015.

The suit maintains the DOI did not pay out all of the funds it should have to eligible counties under the recently expanded legislation for the fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017.

The tribes themselves are not part of the lawsuit.

“It has nothing to do with the tribes,” said Corporation Counsel Tony Kordus. “It’s money that gets thrown in by the federal government to be doled out by the Interior.”

Kordus said there’s no way of knowing how much money Shawano County could be eligible for, if any.

“We are way, way down on the list of potential takers,” he said.

Kordus said there are many counties, particularly out west, that are comprised nearly entirely of non-taxable reservation property that would be ahead of Shawano County in line for the money.

“If there are a few pennies on the dollar to be doled out, great,” Kordus said.

It isn’t costing the county anything to join the lawsuit.