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El Paso County is joining a class-action lawsuit, seeking to recover about $5,000 from the federal government for payment it doesn’t receive in property taxes on federal land.

County commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to opt into the 2017 lawsuit, in which Utah’s Kane County argued that the United States has underpaid local governments when doling out payments in lieu of taxes.

Local jurisdictions with non-taxable federal lands get the payments to offset the loss of property tax revenues, per a 1976 law.

The lawsuit alleges that from 2015 to 2017, Congress did not adequately compensate local governments.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has granted summary judgment in favor of Kane County and other local governments in the class, ruling that the U.S. is obligated to make up for the underpayments, says a notice from the court.

El Paso County is owed more than $7,000, Senior Assistant County Attorney Peter Lichtman wrote in a memo to county commissioners.

About a third of that payout will go to attorney fees and litigation costs, though, county spokesman Dave Rose said.

“Most Colorado counties have already or will be joining the class, just as El Paso County did today, because it’s necessary to receive the amount they were ‘shorted’ when Congress did not fully appropriate for the PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) legislation during the past couple of budget years,” Rose said.

County Government Reporter

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