Sounding off on Pennington County tax issues
August 19, 2013
Several "myths" are flourishing in the Black Hills media regarding a recent action of three of the five Pennington County Commissioners to increase acreage requirements for agricultural tax status. It was a surprise at the May 21, commission meeting when, based on an agenda item listed as a report from the Director of Equalization, a motion was made and passed by a vote of 3-1 to increase the acreage requirement for agricultural property tax qualification from 40 to 160 acres. There was little discussion, cursory information, and no public input prior to the vote. See the meeting on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzHRvYfL-60.
Since then, dozens of appeals have been made by ag and non ag Pennington Co. taxpayers and a petition was signed by over 500 Pennington Co. taxpayers urging the commission to rescind the decision until a public task force can be formed to study and recommend a path forward. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOEa7JCum4M for some of the public appeals/facts presented.
That appeal has been flatly refused by the three commissioners who instigated the move and their personal and public statements have fueled the myths causing great divide among neighbors within and outside of Pennington Co. Four of the most widely spread myths followed by the facts speak to the truth:
1. MYTH: The 466 property taxpayers in Pennington Co. who currently have ag status do not pay their fair share of property taxes compared to property owners who do not have ag status property.
FACT: The Cost of Community Services report, paid for by Pennington Co. ($12,000.00) in 2009 reported that for each classification of property tax received in Pennington Co., the cost of services rendered by the county is as follows:
a. Commercial and industrial properties receive 36 cents in services for every tax dollar they pay the county;
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b. Agricultural and undeveloped land property owners receive 51 cents in services for every tax dollar they pay the county;
c. Residential properties receive $1.29 in services for every dollar they pay the county .
2. MYTH: Homeowners with ag status pay less property taxes on their homes than non-ag status home owners.
FACT: Residences on ag status land are levied at the same rate for comparable homes on one acre parcels. A $200,000 home is equal to a $200,000 home for tax purposes, regardless of its location. The surrounding land, where agricultural requirements are met, is the portion of land having ag tax status. In a report, the Director of Equalization stated, "Ag property does not include any normally occupied dwelling or automobile garage or building used for that purpose."
3. MYTH: The change in the ag status acreage requirement will only raise the taxes of the 466 affected property owners by a few hundred dollars.
FACT: The change in the ag status acreage requirement will raise taxes on each ag status land owner an average of $3,433.48 per year. Some will see increases three to four times that figure.
4. MYTH: "People with 40 acres are coming in front of Equalization for ag status, making liars and cheaters out of them." This MYTH was stated publicly by a commissioner and has been widely circulated.
FACT: The responsibility of the office of the DOE is to identify and remedy any properties not in compliance of the law for ag status taxation. If there are liars and cheaters, it is a failure on the part of the DOE to take corrective action.
Due process disregarded by our elected representatives, the onerous ruling to QUADRUPLE the acreage requirement and feedback from taxpayers who have had personal contact with the commissioners, leaves taxpayers wondering what the "stench" is in the air. Typically a sniff test, as with canines looking for illicit drugs, or those who visit ag land (if it looks and smells like ag, it probably is), taxpayers who think the air is foul around the offices of the Pennington Co. Commission, have the right and duty to clean it up! After all, this is our city, county, state and land that is being changed forever if the commissioners prevail. No doubt, neighboring counties are watching and fearing that that soon other counties will follow, in a quest to offset their spending by creating new sources of revenue. Sound like Washington, D.C.?
Hold on to your wallets, your precious heritage and the South Dakota culture that our settling forefathers labored to gain and protect for generations to come. It's our last chance. F