Nebraska land valuations rise 12.45 percent

Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Bigger tax bills could follow higher land valuations in Nebraska, to the chagrin of property-rich farmers and ranchers, authorities say.

The Nebraska Revenue Department has reported an overall 12.45 percent increase in the state’s property valuations for 2014, fueled largely by a jump of 29.1 percent in agricultural land valuations. The department report was based on 2014 property abstracts of assessments filed by assessors in Nebraska’s 93 counties.

The overall jump of $20.93 billion in valuation for the state came from $1.99 billion on new construction and $18.94 billion attributed to existing property valuations.

Owning hundreds or thousands of acres of valuable land is a mixed blessing, experts say: When the land is sold, it could bring millions of dollars. But if held and worked by a farmer or rancher, the annual property tax bills can be crushing.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss told the Lincoln Journal Star that property tax increases frustrate farmers and ranchers because they just raise costs of production but don’t “add anything to the bottom line.”

The ag industry has sought aid from the Legislature, which has responded with an additional $25 million for the state’s property tax credit cash fund, taking it up to $140 million. With the increase, a home or property valued at $100,000 would get a tax credit of $74.11.

But President Steve Nelson of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation said in a Tuesday news release that “the fact remains that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third-highest property taxes in the U.S. and will continue to do so until something is done to address this issue.”

Goss said the state’s valuation growth reflects property growth seen nationwide. Surveys have shown the rise in agricultural land values slowing in many areas, which likely will be reflected in valuations next year.

Cities, counties, school districts and other tax-setting entities will be deciding whether the increased valuations will lead to any changes in tax rates. Even if tax rates remain the same, bills increase with rising valuations.