Assessor presents on land use

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dozens of farmers, foresters and others came out to two special meetings held this week and last week to learn more about the land use program.

About 15 citizens were at the Whaleyville meeting on Tuesday. Last Tuesday, more than twice that were in attendance in Holland.

City Councilman Tim Johnson said he asked City Assessor Jean Jackson to conduct the educational programs.

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“It’s for us to be able to continue to farm,” he said this week at the Whaleyville meeting, held at the Whaleyville Community Center. “Agriculture’s our biggest commodity in this city. We have to have land use to farm.”

The program allows owners of land used to produce crops or livestock, ornamental plants, fruits and the like, as well as owners of forest land that’s under a forest management plan, to be taxed on the use value of the land, rather than the market value.

Jackson said the program generally saves owners money, but that wasn’t the case last year. That’s why there’s been some confusion about how the program is supposed to work.

The State Land Evaluation and Advisory Council dictates most aspects of the program, but the local assessor’s office is charged with administering it.

The use value for cropland is determined using a seven-year average, dropping the high and low years, of the crop’s value. But several crops have had boom years recently, leading to higher-than-normal taxes on the use value last year.

However, Jackson said she expects the use values to begin correcting themselves this year, as some of the earlier boom years drop off the chart.

About 3,500 parcels in the city are in the land use program, Jackson added.

There are a number of requirements for land to quality for the program. Agriculture land must be a minimum of five acres and be used in the production of crops or livestock. Horticulture land also must be a minimum of five acres and be used to produce fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants or ornamental products for sale.

Forest land must be a minimum of 20 acres, devoted to tree growth and maintained so as to constitute a forest area under state forestry standards.

Owners must revalidate their land qualifies every six years. If they take an action in between such as stop farming the land or subdivide the land so that it no longer meets the minimum acreage, or rezone the land to a more intensive use, they can be charged rollback taxes for the current year and five previous years.

Call 514-7475 for more information on the land use program.