Indiana Farm Bureau is calling the just-ended session of the Indiana General Assembly very successful for farmers and members of Indiana Farm Bureau. Members can hear a complete review of the session in a May 8th conference call at 11 AM. As Megan Ritter, Director of Public Policy explains, one of the legislative priorities going into the session, and successes coming out of it, is property taxes.
“We know that there’s more work to be done, that we have some commitments from legislators that we’re going to continue these efforts, but what we’ve got is a freeze for next year and then a slow growth process for the following year, and then a commitment for a study. So in terms of property taxes, farmers and landowners across the state have some relief in this year’s legislative session, and we know that that’s very necessary.”
Ritter says this year’s work on property taxes was a short term solution to stalling the crippling effect the taxes have had on farm profitability, and they will continue to work with legislators to reach long term solutions.
She also told HAT in 2015 there were some real wins for property owners and property rights in Indiana, one of only a couple of states that allows involuntary annexation.
“Starting in July landowners who face annexation will have an opportunity to get the courts out of the system, which they do not have now when they reach 65 percent threshold. We really think that’s a strong win property rights in the state of Indiana.
Indiana Farm Bureau president Don Villwock credited state legislators for their willingness to work on INFB’s priority issues, as well as an engaged and active membership that brought Hoosier farmers to the Statehouse just about every day of the session.
More on the bills that passed from Indiana Farm Bureau Public Policy Dispatch:
FARMLAND TAX MEASURE STOPS THE BLEEDING BUT SURGERY NEEDED SB 436, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), and sponsored Ways & Means Committee Chair, Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), that includes critical farmland property tax relief, passed out of the House by a vote of 98-0 and the Senate 49-0 in the last 30 minutes of the 2015 legislative session. Negotiations about how to assess big box stores blew up late on Wednesday afternoon and the fate of SB 436 was in jeopardy.
SB 436 includes a variety of property tax provisions. INFB supported the farmland portions of SB 436, including delaying the soil productivity factors for the fourth session in a row and freezing the base value at $2,050 for taxes paid in 2016. As the bill passed, the base will be adjusted for 2017 taxes by the lesser of what the current formula says or the average growth quotient, which for 2015 was 2.7 percent. SB 436 clarifies the definition of farmland and gives assessors more flexibility in assessing excess acres, but they may not use excess acre influence factors in the place of ag land assessments. County assessors must now notify taxpayers in writing when their property tax classification has changed and explain why the change occurred. If the classification change is appealed, the assessor will have the burden to prove the change was justified.
COMPROMISE TAKES ON NEW MEANING IN SB 330 After countless compromises, SB 330 passed the House 87-0 and the Senate 43-6 in the final minutes of the 2015 Indiana legislative session. Passage of SB 330 is an outstanding victory for Indiana Farm Bureau and the rural landowners that we represent.
SB 330 contains significant forced annexation reforms including stopping an annexation when 65 percent of the landowners sign a remonstrance petition. This eliminates landowners from being forced into a trial and financing their expenses to fight the annexation in court.
INFB fought against an economic development loophole, which now includes the limitation that any project would have to start within 12 months and be completed within 36 months after annexation. If that timeframe isn’t met the land is automatically removed from the city. The economic development language won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2017. In the meantime, the connection between economic development and forced annexation will be studied further and INFB will be participating heavily in those discussions.
Farm Bureau members made hundreds of contacts on this and other INFB priorities that really made an impact. The landowners who had been impacted by annexation provided compelling testimony about the numerous unfair practices that cities and towns have been using. It was simply time to change the law.
We must thank the bill author, Sen. Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), for his leadership and commitment to getting a bill passed, in spite of stiff opposition from mayors across the state. This bill should make a dent in the broad annexations that include thousands of acres of farmland. After July 1, any farmland annexed will not pay city or town taxes so long as it is assessed as farmland.