Stop! Don't blow this item off. It might be the most important item you read all year, and it's only Jan. 2! The Department of Government and Local Finance is bent on implementing new soil productivity indexes on bare farmland. For the vast majority of soils, it would raise the productivity, and hence presumably raise assessed value. The productivity changes vary from slightly negative to more than a 20% increase!
This has nothing to do with the formula that determines that actual value of average bare farmland. No one at this time is proposing changing or even studying that formula. It will continue to kick out higher assessed values as long as the years included in the base, a 6-year collection, include productive, high-price years from 2007 forward.
The productivity index is completely separate. If implemented, DLGF would apply the numbers and use them to increase appraised value of soils where productivity ratings have increased. This would be in addition to any effect from the formula.
Indiana Farm Bureau is leading the charge to try to understand and make sure any changes made on the basis of these ratings is fair. IFB was instrumental in delaying the use of the new indexes two years ago, and in sending it to a study committee last year. Both moves saved landowners about $57 million per year, collectively, in property taxes.
"Now we've got to do something with it again," says Katrina Hall, chief legislative affairs specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau. "There is more variation in the index than we expected. Some legislators want to delay it again. If it can be worked out, it will still take legislation to implement. Purdue was asked to look at it with DLGF over the summer, and they are still looking at it.
In the meantime, Hall urges you to visit www.infarmbureau.org and click on your county. The proposed soil productivity index changes per soil type will come up. See if you think they make sense or not. Then follow directions to return your comments to Indiana Farm Bureau. Hall and the staff want to know what farmers think of the proposed changes in productivity ratings.