When the final gavel fell on the Indiana General Assembly, months of intrigue, hard lobbying and a deal in literally the closing half-hour of the session resulted in reasonably good news for Indiana farmers and landowners.
Katrina Hall, director of state government relations for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., says that while some farmers wanted more, she is pleased to tell members that Farm Bureau helped accomplish more than it once looked like they might be able to do in this session.
The bottom line is a savings of $52.4 million for next year that landowners won't have to pay because the 2015 farmland base value for assessment of $2,050 per acre is frozen for one year. It will be followed by a savings of $86.5 million in 2017, and $111.1 million in 2018. That's because after next year the increase rate will match rate of increase of other local entities.
In the meantime, farmland base value will increase about 2.7% each year until a new method of assessing farmland is developed. This stops increases of 10% or more, as would have happened under the original farmland property tax formula.
This session produced other results in terms of ag property taxes on farmland. The soil productivity index of soils is frozen for the fourth year in a row.
Many feel the original proposal of the Department of Government and Local Finance to readjust values based on revisions in soil productivity indexes needs to go away permanently. Instead, this issue will stay alive for at least one more year.
"The key as to why savings will increase for the next three years is that the increase will be 2.7% on the frozen value, not on a value that would have been 18% higher in 2016 if they hadn't froze it this year," Hall says.
While Hall realizes this doesn't eat into property tax woes for Indiana agriculture, she believes it's a step in the right direction.