After being fast-tracked through the General Assembly, legislation aimed at preventing $57 million in farm property tax increases landed on Governor Mike Pence’s desk Wednesday. The legislation was Pence’s first to sign into law.
One of the factors used in determining farmland property taxes is soil productivity, or how much of a crop soil can produce. Since 1979, the soil productivity factor has been a constant. But the Department of Local Government Finance, or DLGF, announced last year the factors would change, increasing property taxes on farmers across Indiana.
Legislation signed by Pence keeps the productivity factor at its 2011 level for another year while asking the DLGF to review its decision. Pence says the bill helps keep Hoosier farmers competitive.
“And that we avoid an unnecessary tax increase by the imposition of an assessment that doesn’t take in the unique challenges that Hoosier agriculture faces,” he says.
There is an appeals process for individual farms to challenge their property tax assessments, but Oldenburg Republican Senator Jean Leising, who sponsored the bill, says that wouldn’t have helped in this case.
“This would have hit every piece, parcel of agricultural land in the state,” he says. “It would have been overwhelming for local counties to deal with this through appeals.”
And Leising says keeping the soil productivity factor a constant is important when grain prices, a piece of the formula for farm property taxes, fluctuates so much.