Nebraska Ag Leaders: High land values again show need for property tax reform
Ryan Summerlin April 28, 2014
Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, made the following statement last week after new reports showed that statewide agricultural land valuations had doubled since 2009:
“Yesterday the Nebraska Department of Revenue’s Property Assessment Division released the real property value percentage change by property type from 2013 to 2014. As expected, agricultural land valuations again increased, this time by 29.12 percent over the previous year.”
“This increase ensures the statewide valuation of agricultural land for tax purposes will have doubled since 2009 as our estimates suggest nearly a 120 percent increase in valuation since that time. Our estimates also suggest that due to the increase, the statewide property taxes paid by farm and ranch families on agricultural land will near $1 billion in 2015.”
“As we have pointed out on many occasions the unprecedented growth in valuation on agricultural land and the associated increases in property taxes are carried by farm and ranch families who make up less than three percent of our population, but pay more than 25 percent of the property taxes collected statewide.”
“While the Legislature placing more monies into the property tax credit program in the vein of property tax relief is appreciated, the fact remains that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property taxes in the U.S. and will continue to do so until something is done to address this issue.”
“Nebraska Farm Bureau will continue to advocate for change to a tax system which fails to recognize that property is not the sole means of measuring wealth and unfairly relies on farmer’s and rancher’s primary production tool (land) as the basis for funding schools and local government.”
Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen has also spoke often of “much-needed” property tax relief for ag producers.
In a conversation with The Fence Post last month, Hansen explained how Sen. Al Davis’ bill to the Appropriations Committee, which provides $25 million of additional funds to local government subdivisions, had been progressing, and that should provide a substantial amount of property tax relief.
Although, “it’s not the size of property tax relief we wanted, but it sends a signal that we’re going to start trying to help local government subdivisions with tax dollars … and more emphasis on sales tax and less on property.
“That movement has been encouraging.”
But he also noted, that “there were a couple different bills in Appropriations that got put at $45 million, and came from cash reserve fund dollars, to help for property tax relief … that didn’t go. Where was the problem? It’s hard to know how many folks were against providing additional property tax relief and how many folks were more likely just opposed to raiding the cash reserve fund.”
“What we’ve said historically,” he continued, “is there needs to be more a structural and systemic fix to the property tax problem, so that we treat all land owners better, and reduce all land owners tax loads … and we make sure we’re helping all ag folks across the state.” ❖