New Brown County ag land assessment plan coming

Shannon Marvel
Farm Forum

Brown County is doing away with adjusting agricultural land assessments based on neighborhoods or geography.

Instead, a much more difficult and work-intensive plan is being implemented this year for property taxes payable in 2019 and beyond, said interim Director of Equalization Gene Loeschke.

He outlined the plan during Tuesday’s commission meeting at the Brown County Courthouse.

It involves working directly with township boards and landowners to determine productivity adjustments specific to certain parcels of ag land.

“This summer’s project is pretty much set,” Loeschke said.

“We’ve been visiting with township boards as they come in. (Geographic Information Systems) is printing maps with topography using aerial photography,” he said.

The plan also calls for assessors to go out and visually verify what’s shown on the maps, including areas of bare land and salted soils.

This year’s ag equalization factor in Brown County is estimated to average 98.3 percent of the top-dollar value allowed in the state’s productivity model. Brown County’s maximum value per acre is $3,620 this year.

Five townships in the northwest corner of the county will remain at 80 percent.

The equalization office will be requesting motions to equalize the ag land in areas that were valued more than 100 percent in previous years. Those motions will be made during a series of county commission meetings so property owners can be notified in a timely manner in case they want to attend.

Assessors will work with townships boards, county commissioners and state officials to develop a standard set of definitions on what justifies an adjustment, Loeschke added.

The move comes after a state Department of Revenue ruling that the way Brown County has valued ag land in 15 southern townships has been improper in recent years. There were two problems, according to the state: That the values were set, in part, to reflect that the property would sell for more than other ag land in the county, and that they were above the top per-acre total set by the state.

Ag land in the 15 townships was assessed at 118 percent of the maximum state value under the county’s old three-neighborhood plan.

About 10 years ago, South Dakota changed the method of how it values agriculture land from one based on land sale prices to one based on how productive the land is.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners went into closed session to discuss personnel and pending or proposed litigation involving ag land assessments. No action was taken as a result of the executive session.

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