A newly formed group of farmers and ranchers, tentatively called Nebraskans for Tax Reform, are seeking signatures on a petition that will ask the governor to call a special legislative session, as early as this year, to address high property taxes on ag land. Unhappy with the state's lack of progress in reducing the sharply higher property taxes on farmland and ranch land, the group was organized by Rod Holl man, a Martell-area farmer and president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau chapter in Lancaster County. In addition to a meeting with Gov. Pete Ricketts to express their concerns, the group is also seeking signatures on a second letter, asking state legislators to make property tax relief their top priority.
Last week, the Austin City Council met behind closed doors to discuss a possible challenge to the Travis Central Appraisal District's commercial property values. The city council considered a similar challenge last year, but due to a time constraint to file the petition, instead voted to undertake a study of commercial appraisals that could serve as the basis for a “targeted” challenge in 2015. Despite the city council previously announcing they would not release their value study’s findings from 2014, since a challenge could lead to a lawsuit, they released the analysis of TCAD's commercial valuation this week, which found that Austin's commercial values overall are significantly undervalued. The city council has until June 1st to file a petition, but says they are interested in challenging the appraisals of just two categories of commercial property, not including multifamily properties. Those categories total about $30 billion in value.
Property values across the Denver-metro area are seeing large jumps in value, and county assessors are warning taxpayers to expect much higher tax bills. The city is fully recovered from the recession and continues to grow tremendously, and property values reflect that growth. While it benefits local government revenues, property owners are left facing higher property tax bills.
A huge alliance of Yavapai County, Arizona ranchers is appealing portions of a tax court ruling about the value of the county's grazing land. While the judge lowered grazing land values for property tax purposes, values for federal and state grazing leases were not considered. Only 25 percent of the land in Yavapai County is private, according to government statistics compiled by the Western Rural Development Center. The alliance is concerned the increasing tax rates will push ranchers out of business, along with the open space and wildlife waters they provide.
When the Revenue Committee voted on the proposal to reduce the taxable value of agricultural land from 75 to 65 percent of market value on Wednesday, only two of eight members voted for it. The committee did, however, endorse a proposal to lower personal property taxes – that could include everything from farmers’ tractors to business computers. The proposal is a personal property tax credit geared more toward small businesses and the production of ag land – not the owners of ag land. In other words, the break would go to someone who owns a tractor or combine, not someone who owns a section of land. It would also go to businesses that own personal property, like machinery.
Property tax relief is Nebraska Farm Bureau’s top priority for the 2015 session of the Nebraska Legislature, due to concerns that ag land owners pay more than their fair share of property taxes. This week a panel of lawmakers were told that property taxes paid by Nebraska farmers and ranchers are two to three times higher than those paid by their counterparts in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas, and the wide disparity calls for action by the State Legislature.
Last week, two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion that calls for landowners to receive tax breaks for leasing vacant property for agriculture, in an effort to transform empty, blighted lots into flourishing urban farms, encourage green enterprises and improve neighborhoods. Last year, the California Legislature approved the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which authorized a tax adjustment for private property owners who lease land for commercial or noncommercial agriculture use for at least five years. The council members want that law implemented locally.
By Domingos Santos, Managing Consultant, Phoenix