Don Villwock has said it 1,000 times, and will probably see it a 1,000 times more in the next two months. Villwock is a farmer and president of Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. Bob Kraft covers the legislature for IFB, and he's said it hundreds of times as well, both in print and face-to-face with legislators. Purdue University's Larry DeBoer, an ag economist, has pointed out numerous times, and took to a press release to do so again just last week.
What is it they all have said? Simply put, the property tax cap of 2% set to go into effect based on legislation passed two years ago won't stop farmers from paying more property taxes on farmland. The cap is on assessed value, not the actual property tax bill. And as long as farmland is tied to a complicated formula developed several years ago, there's always the risk that assessed valuation will go up. In fact, for at least the near term, based on how the formula is put together and price moves in the major commodities, it will go up.
We've even said it, here on the Web and in print in Indiana Prairie Farmer. And we've said it dozens of times, not just once. So when a landowner called the other day and wanted to know what he could do about this situation, it was a bit puzzling what to tell him, at least at first.
"This property tax cap tied to assessed value isn't going to help farmers at all," he said. "As long as the assessed value can go up, we will pay more. That's certainly not relief to us. What can I do?"
Indeed, what can one person do? Then it dawned on me, speaking to me on the phone, he couldn't do anything. He was preaching to the choir, although anyone who has ever heard me sing one note knows that's not a good cliché to use in my case. My kids will do anything to get me to not sing along with the radio in the car.
He needs to be talking- that's what he can do. But he needs to talk to his legislators, not me, not Bob Kraft, not Don Villwock, not Larry DeBoer. All these folk have fought the good fight. They've tried to tell it like they see it, and stand up for farmers in this state. But it sometimes seems like the message is falling on deaf ears.
When a voter speaks, that's a different matter. Especially in an election year, legislators will at least listen. Be it by email or letter, they'll pay attention. The best no doubt is still face-to-face, with a personal call being second best. It's harder to dodge and weave and spin things when you're looking at, or at least talking to, a real person- one who can vote in your district.
You've been told many times to talk to your legislator about one thing or another. And many times nothing happens. But every once in a while it does. This may be the time when you need to take your heartfelt concern over what increasing property taxes will do to you, in a day when others are seeing property tax relief, to the statehouse and let the only people that can change it know how you feel.
Then again, I suppose someone could schedule me to sing for the General Assembly. If the only way to shut me up was provide real relief for landowners, it just might happen!