Wilmington joins class-action suit

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WILMINGTON — Select Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to join in a class-action lawsuit in hopes of recovering additional funds from the federal government.

Wilmington will be joining municipalities throughout the United States looking to receive more money for "underpayments" over the last three fiscal years related to the Payment In Lieu of Taxes Act.

"It's sort of like no harm, no foul," Town Manager Scott Tucker told the Reformer.

On Tuesday, Tucker brought the lawsuit up to the Select Board after receiving a letter in the mail. The town has until September to fill out a form to participate in the lawsuit.

According to the National Association of Counties, Congress in 2018 amended the PILT statute by mandating full funding through 2014 and repealed original language considering the program discretionary and subject to annual congressional appropriations processes.

"Due to insufficient appropriations for 2015 through 2017, PILT recipients did not receive the full amount to which they were entitled under the PILT statute based on the Department of the Interior's full payment calculation," an article from NACo says.

Town Treasurer Christine Richter said the lawsuit started with Kane County in Utah which had officials who "felt they were being underpaid by the federal government."

"So if it works, we'll be getting more money," she told the Reformer. "But I don't think we'll be getting a lot more."

Kane County filed the suit in the United States Court of Federal Claims last summer, "seeking to recover its own underpayments and the underpayments of all other PILT recipients nationwide for those years," according to NACo. "In December, the court ruled in Kane County's favor for FY2015 and 2016 underpayments and issued a similar ruling on FY2017 underpayments in March 2018."

Last month, NACo began inviting others to join the lawsuit at no cost or fee.

"As of this moment, in excess of 400 counties have opted into the case," Alan Saltman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, told the Reformer. Debby Kingsley, lister's assistant, provided a spreadsheet of 14 state-owned properties exempt from tax payments. Their combined property value total is $1,728,139. Of highest value is a garage with a shed at Haystack Road worth $730,807 and the Medburyville Bridge worth $214,286.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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