More than 65 Master Farmers out of 140-plus named in the modern era, since 1968, and still active, answered survey questions exclusively for Indiana Prairie Farmer through a written survey during the past two weeks. Property taxes and what to do about them, after the legislature took its turn at reform earlier this year, were hot items tabbed by the farmers, according to the survey.
The complete results of this informal 'poll' will be released in the October edition of Indiana Prairie Farmer, due out approximately Oct. 1. The participants were asked about issues, not about which candidates they intended to support. Indiana Prairie Farmer is not conducting an actual election poll this year.
Presented with a series of possible proposals, prepared by magazine staff after hearing various debates and speeches on political topics so far this political season, were posed to the survey participants. They were asked if they favor or don't favor the proposals. One astute farmer pointed out that there is limited value in these surveys, if any, because these issues aren't black and white, and can't be captured and answered in single questions. Sill, perhaps they provide a glimpse of what farmers are thinking about in terms of politics and state and local government issues as the calendar moves closer to election day in November.
One proposal suggested freezing assessed valuation for bare farmland at $1,140 per acre, the average value used statewide to calculate property taxes this year. That's up more than 25% from the value used for taxes payable a year ago. Here's the actual wording that the farmers reacted to: 'Freeze bare farmland assessed value at current $1,140 for 5 years.' More than three out of four, or about 77%, said they would favor such an idea, although there were strong feelings both ways.
Some thought that the value should be rolled back to $880, the previous value, instead of being frozen at $1,140. Others commented that someone must pay for services, and if not through property taxes, then through some other means, such as higher sales taxes or an income tax increase.
The assessed farmland value rose so dramatically from a year ago because it was artificially frozen at the lower level the conclusion of Joe Kernan's term as governor. Beginning this year, the freeze was lifted and the value was again determined by a complicated formula, which includes market price for corn and soybeans, among other factors.
Predictions are that the value will definitely rise for taxes due in '09. That's because the formula is based on a six-year rolling average. Right now, a year with much lower crop prices is rolling off, and one with higher prices is now picked up in the formula to replace it. Without further changes, some experts say the base assessed value will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. While property tax is determined by both assessment and rate, if assessment goes up, it's possible total property tax due will go up as well.
Look for more survey results in the October issue of the magazine.