Farmers and the farm groups who represent them breathed their first sigh of relief when the Indiana Senate voted 48 to 0 to pass a bill preventing the Department of Local Government Finance from arbitrarily changing soil productivity factors to cause an increase in property tax bills.
However, the issue still is under debate in the House. A different version with a similar goal is working its way through the chamber. So far, legislators seem to get the message that DLGF shouldn't be allowed to arbitrarily make a change that will cost one segment of taxpayers a huge amount of money.
What's not on the table at the moment, however, is any legislation that would address an even deeper issue – the fact that farmers are seeing property tax bills on bare farmland increase by about 10% per year while homeowners have seen decreases. The increases have been fairly consistent even after the constitutional amendment that was supposed to ease the property tax burden was passed.
The fact is that in most counties, farmland hasn't hit the cap yet, so there's no real relief on land. But, it hasn't hit the cap because assessed value keeps rising. The cap is not on the actual amount you pay, as many people believed, but on the percent of assessed value that you can be charged in any one year.
Katrina Hall has taken this message to legislators, and they are listening. While Bob Kraft, a lobbyist, the same as Hall, for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., doesn't foresee direct action on the formula that's causing property tax bills on land to increase this session, he does note that many legislators have expressed surprise when Hall speaks and tells them that farmers are actually paying considerably more property taxes than before.
The assessed value is determined by a formula that has been used for several years. As long as crop prices stay high, the formula will likely continue to produce an increased assessed value for average farmland each year.
If you want your legislator to push for a change in this formula, it's up to you to let them know, Kraft says. The only way he sees the issue getting further attention this session is if there is a grassroots effort to reach legislators and let them know that the current system isn't acceptable.