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Public lands generate payments in lieu of taxes

WORTHINGTON — When Nobles County Pheasants Forever President Scott Rall talked about the chapter’s latest land acquisition in Bigelow Township Tuesday morning with members of the E.O. Olson Trust board, he said the 147-acre parcel will generate up to $5,200 in annual payments in lieu of taxes. That’s nearly double the amount of taxes collected on the property when it was farmed.

PILT payments are made by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources each year on lands it manages in Nobles County.

According to Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer Beth Van Hove, PILT payments totaling nearly $163,685 were paid to the county last July. That revenue is divided among the county, the townships and the school districts where the parcels are located.

Van Hove said more than 4,700 acres — Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) open to the public — in Nobles County generate a payment in lieu of taxes. As of last year, Nobles County Pheasants Forever Pheasant Run parcels accounted for nearly 2,000 of the acres.

“PILT payments vary across the state, but those payments in Nobles County are generally higher in total dollars than the taxes paid by the private landowner,” explained Rall.

The payment in lieu of taxes is figured using a formula based on three-quarters of 1 percent of the purchase price of the parcel — a formula adopted by the Minnesota Legislature in 1979 as an amendment to a state law regarding PILT that dates back to 1933. The PILT formula is followed for the first five years of the land’s designation as a WMA. After five years, the PILT payment changes to an amount equal to three-quarters of 1 percent of the appraised value of the land or $3 per acre, whichever is greater. That language was added to state law in 1995.

“Many private landowners qualify for homestead credits, which state-owned lands do not qualify for,” said Rall. That’s why PILT payments are often double what the parcel would generate in taxes under private ownership.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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