February 21, 2013

Farmers’ tax hikes delayed

Bill keeps factors in farmland tax assessments stable

by Sarah Einselen

— State legislators sent a bill to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk last week that will keep one set of factors in farmland tax assessments stable.

Senate Bill 319 sponsored by state Rep. Don Lehe, a Brookston Republican, passed the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously, according to a release from Lehe’s office. It’s the first piece of legislation to pass both houses of the General Assembly this legislative session.

The bill keeps farmland assessments from rising as dramatically as projected by postponing changes to the Department of Local Government Finance’s soil productivity factors. The changes would have equaled an immediate 20 percent increase in farmland property taxes, according to Lehe’s office.

Still, the base rate for farmland assessments will rise more than 8 percent this year to $1,630, an increase farmers will see starting with their year 2013 payments. That rate reaches $2,810 for payment year 2017 based on the current method of figuring, according to figures from the Purdue Extension.

“Base rates are rising because crop land prices are rising,” said Tamara Ogle, a Cass County Extension Educator. “Basically we’ve seen those numbers increase in agriculture, so it’s not unexpected that it’s going up or that it’s going up at a really high rate.”

Dave Forgey, president of the Cass County Farm Bureau, was confident Gov. Pence would sign the bill before spring property assessments have to be mailed.

“It’ll keep things at least status quo,” said Forgey. “Ag for the most part is OK right now,” he added, though some sectors are struggling, “but keeping those levels where they are will be a positive thing right now.”

The bill postpones use of the new soil productivity factors until payment year 2015 and establishes an interim study committee to study agriculture property tax issues, according to Lehe’s office.

Ogle said the legislature is unlikely to make further changes to farmland assessments before it’s able to gauge the effects of reforms already in place.

“They’ve done a lot of property tax reform,” Ogle said, referring to sweeping changes made in 2008, “so we’ve seen kind of a slowdown in property tax reform just because they need some data to see how it works.”

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharos or 574-732-5151.

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