County commissioners from Pondera and Glacier along with other officials met Wednesday with the Department of Revenue concerning the issue of taxing authority.
The meeting with the two county officials was to go over their assertion of delinquent property taxes on lands on the reservation held in fee.
The two counties have tried to collect the back taxes based on the fee status of the properties even though they are within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation.
Going back to 2006, an agreement drafted by the Department of Revenue with input from Pondera and Glacier counties was presented to the Blackfeet Tribe, but to date has not been agreed to by all parties. According to officials, the agreement would forgive all delinquencies assessed from the year 2000 to the date of the agreement with a transition period in place during which the Tribe could move forward with having the lands transferred back into Trust status through the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs).
A date would be set by which the lands would have to be transferred into Trust and if not accomplished by that date, they would be taxable as fee land until such time as the transfer to Trust would be accomplished.
The officials agreed that the issue needs to be resolved as the impact is not only on the counties but school districts have suffered some financial losses without receipt of taxes.
The meeting ended with an agreement that the attorneys for the Department of Revenue and Pondera and Glacier counties would meet at the earliest possible date and refine the 2006 proposal.
There was a commitment from all in attendance to keep this issue moving and the matter resolved.
In other business, there were a number of abatements approved, one to have a tax increase after review and 14 tax reductions after an adjusted review.
Commissioners moved and approved an amendment to the standard audit contract presented by Denning, Downey, and Associates that lowers the audit fee by $2,000 for 2008-09.
This comes about because the auditor was not required to submit a federal audit resulting in fewer personnel hours.
The commissioners approved a motion of obtain a credit card for the county for use by certain departments which need to purchase specialty items which are not available locally and in some cases are only available on the Internet.
The current policy has an individual purchasing an item with personal funds and then turning in receipts for reimbursement by the county.
The card could be used for merchandise purchases only, cash advances would not be allowed. Resolutions were passed concerning Cemetery Districts one and two. District 1 can transfer $12,654 from the permanent care and improvement fund into the district’s operating fund. District 2 can also transfer the funds from the permanent care and improvement fund into their operating fund.
Commissioners also met with members of the Kearl Project which involves the movement of specialized process units through the county on route to the Kearl Project in northern Alberta, Canada.
Special units will be transported with extra wide trucks on a route covering Hwy. 89, Hwy. 44 and Hwy. 358 and now, a planned overnight stop in Valier.
Be watching The I-O for a more detailed story in the near future concerning this project.
At the meeting, the commissioners expressed their support of the project.