June 25, 2014

Soils questions dominate tax meeting

By Annette Tait

The only things for certain in life are death and taxes – and, in most cases at least, death is the less controversial of the two. This last part proved true earlier this month at the Oliver County Equalization Meeting, when most of the dozen or so property owners present questioned the tax values assigned to their agricultural land rather than their houses.
Once inquiries regarding houses and other buildings had been addressed, questions quickly turned to assessment of agricultural land. Link Reinhiller voiced a number of concerns, particularly relating to the use of the soils index for taxation purposes. The index was originally developed by the federal government as a tool to help agricultural landowners talk about and compare soils using a consistent rating system. However, North Dakota legislation incorporated use of soil analysis and a productivity index, among other factors, into the required valuation and assessment process for agricultural lands.
Olson told those present that he doesn’t assess land, nor does Schulte, and that land assessment-related questions should be directed to the soils committee. Even so, a lively discussion continued among those present, with Schulte working to explain how the county commission-appointed soils committee is working to create an equitable means to assess agricultural land.
Reinhiller noted that he had met with Schulte and U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Dave Pfliiger to discuss how the index is being used by the state for tax purposes.

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