BISBEE — People in need of birth and death certificates will pay a higher price beginning Aug. 1.
County Supervisors Peggy Judd and Ann English approved increases of $2 to $5 for the different vital records as requested by Cochise County Health and Social Services (CCHS).
Ray Falkenberg, CCHS deputy director, said the county’s rates had not been changed since 2011.
“The cost to provide Vital Records services has increased. It is now necessary to adjust the schedule of fees for these services to reflect the current actual cost of providing Vital Records services,” he noted.
“We are the only county that has not adopted the statewide standard fee schedule,” he went on to say. “In order to cover the cost of producing and delivering certificates, adoption of the statewide standard fee schedule is recommended.
“This new fee schedule will enable CHSS to enhance our customers’ experience.”
It also adds $50,000 annually to the county’s revenues.
However, he pointed out the cost of producing a birth certificate and mailing it out costs $20.34. So customers who require mail-out are still getting a bit of a bargain.
Over the month of August, CCHS will roll-out a walk-in, same-day service for vital records beginning with Bisbee and Sierra Vista, said Falkenberg.
English said, “This is very creative of your department to offer this service. Many times, people are in need of something right away. ”
Judd agreed, saying, “This is a wonderful things for our constituents.”
Going after PILT money
On another matter, the supervisors approved moving forward in a lawsuit to recover money from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s program called PILT – Payment In Lieu of Taxes.
"PILT are Federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries,” according to the U.S. DOI website. “The law recognizes the inability of local governments to collect property taxes on Federally-owned land can create a financial impact.”
The DOI goes on to state, “PILT payments help local governments carry out such vital services as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. The payments are made annually for tax-exempt Federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (all bureaus of the Department of the Interior (DOI)), the U.S. Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and for Federal water projects and some military installations. PILT payments are one of the ways the Federal Government can fulfill its role of being a good neighbor to local communities.”
In 2018, the county is scheduled to receive $2.4 million for over 910,000 acres of federal lands.
However, from 2015 through 2017, PILT funds were reduced and counties did not get the agreed upon amounts due.
Deputy Civil County Attorney Elda Orduno explained the case of Kane County, Utah, which sued the federal agency and won. The federal claims court judge ruled the county should not have had the funds reduced, and required that the federal government pay the full amount due for the PILT program from years 2015 through 2017.
Now the case is a class-action lawsuit, with all other PILT counties entitled to join, she added.
“Cochise County, if it joined, would be entitled to $57,540, after payment of attorney’s fees, for 2015 to 2017. There is no downside to joining the class action lawsuit. No county money would be spent,” she said.
While it is not a lot of money, the county is holding a tight line on budget matters, and any amount will help.
Judd commented, “This is to pay us the taxes on public land that we can’t collect taxes on.”
English stated, “This is really important. The federal government is giving us whatever they think they should pay and not follow the law. The federal court stepped in and said no way.”