BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge has granted a 45-day extension to a Native American tribe that is being sued over payments to county government.

Washington County filed suit in federal court against the Passamaquoddy Tribe last November, alleging that the tribe has not made any property related payments to the county — either in the form of taxes or as a payment in lieu of taxes, also known as a PILOT — since 2006.

PILOTs typically are made by nonprofit organizations to municipalities or other governments in recognition of the impact those organizations have on governmental services. Nonprofit organizations are exempt from paying property taxes under federal law.

The suit claims that Washington County is authorized by the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 to collect PILOTs from the tribe based on all real estate and personal property of the Passamaquoddys in Washington County.

No dollar amount is specified in the lawsuit but an attorney for the tribe has said that the county is seeking about $40,000.

In the tribe’s request for an extension, which was filed Dec. 29, the tribe’s attorney indicated that the two parties may be able to reach a settlement.

“I believe there is a good chance that this case can be settled without resort to expensive and time-consuming litigation,” Portland attorney Craig Francis wrote in the motion.

Federal Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk approved the tribe’s request Friday morning, according to a publicly accessible database of documents filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor. The new deadline for filing a response to the county’s complaint, if a settlement cannot be reached, is Feb. 19, 2013.

Other tribes in Maine have been making similar payments to other counties in recent years.

According to Penobscot County Administrator Bill Collins, the Penobscot Nation is sent an annual tax bill for its real estate holding in that county. In 2012 the Penobscots paid $10,128 to the county, not as a PILOT but as the tribe’s share of county taxes, Collins has said.

BDN reporter Tom Walsh contributed to this report.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....