RBC I You may have heard references to various organizations — statewide or regional — and we want to start explaining why these boards exist and why it’s so important to have solid representation within these organizations.
As county commissioners, we automatically select representation on several boards. This board of commissioners, however, has sought and attained executive level representation on arguably three of the most important organizations in the state: the Colorado Counties (CCI); The Yampa/White River Water Conservation Round Table; and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC).
Each of these organizations has tremendous influence at the state and federal levels for issues relating directly to the political, environmental and financial health of Rio Blanco County.
In 1920, the Federal Mineral Lease Act (FMLA) was signed into law. This act allows the federal government to accept 12.5 percent off any revenue generated on public lands by mineral extraction, coal, oil shale and oil and gas as a royalty. This has long been referred to as severance tax.
Fifty-one percent of this money is retained by the feds, 49 percent of this money is distributed to the state of origin specifically to “areas of impact.”
In Colorado, the 49 percent is distributed in the following way: 48.3 percent of this money goes to the State Public School Fund, with a cap of $76 million; 10 percent goes to the Colorado Water Conservation Board with a cap of $17.7 million; 1.7 percent goes to School District Direct Distribution with a cap of $4.1 million; and 40 percent of this money goes into a local impact program managed by the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).
This last 40 percent is equally split, giving 50 percent to direct distributions for the counties, towns and FML districts and 50 percent for grants to local government.
I know! It is a subject drier than your last accounting class, right?
There are two main reasons I bring up this topic: first, to explain one of the funding sources for the towns and county; and second, to explain why representation in organizations outside the county are so vital to the health of this great county.
The FML distributions for 2014 were as follows: Rio Blanco County generated $40 million in FML dollars or 22 percent of the state’s total state FML dollars ($181 million). Using the distribution formula above and a large number of qualifying factors like the employee residence report, miles of county roads and the population, Rangely, Meeker and Rio Blanco County received $5.3 million or 3 percent of the total FML generated in the state of Colorado.
A publication article printed:
“DENVER — Monday, April 21, 2014 — Reeves Brown, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), announced the department distributed $4.3 million in Federal Mineral Leasing (FML) reserves to counties, municipalities and FML districts. The funds were appropriated by the General Assembly through the JBC-sponsored bill, SB14-106, from the Local Government Permanent Fund.
“The Local Government Permanent Fund was created to help offset declines in consecutive annual payments to qualifying local governments that are greater than 10 percent. The annual FML payments are used by counties, municipalities, and FML districts to offset economic and social impacts of industry operations.
“Brown said, ‘These dollars are important to local communities and I thank the members of the General Assembly for their work in helping address the impact of the decline in revenues in the Federal Mineral Lease fund.’”
The Senate Bill that affected this payment was a direct result the efforts of AGNC. The chairman is Commissioner Mike Sampson of Garfield County; Vice Chairman is me; the Treasurer is Marty Chazen, the mayor pro tem of Grand Junction; and the director is Scott McInnis.
In short, Elizabeth Tice-Janda, with the city of Grand Junction, found a discrepancy in the FML distribution for 2013. She brought this issue before AGNC, we had our “Government Relations Team” (Orf and Orf) seek and acquire sponsorship of the aforementioned bill and the net result was a payment of $4.3 million to the FML fund.
Rio Blanco County received just under $800,000 for this effort.
Also, the $2 million grant that was recently attained by Rio Blanco County came from the grant portion of the FML fund handled by DOLA.
AGNC’s membership is comprised of Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Mesa counties as well as 95 percent of the municipalities within these counties.
AGNC isn’t just about financial issues. During the legislative session, we meet weekly to prioritize and discuss bills as they are introduced.
Our bill priorities, which are to monitor, support or oppose, are communicated to the appropriate legislative representative through our Government Relations team. More than 60 percent of the recommendations AGNC makes are followed on Capitol Hill.
By Jeff Eskelson
Rio Blanco County Commissioner