CAUV reform on hold in House and Senate committees

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Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse.

SALEM, Ohio — Two bills in the Ohio legislature that call for improvements to the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value formula have been on hold for about a month — and time is running out if they are to become law before the legislature’s summer break.

H.B. 398 was last heard by the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee May 3, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee held the fourth hearing on S.B. 246 April 27.

Both bills seek the same reforms: to improve the accuracy of CAUV by excluding certain nonagricultural factors from the formula, like equity buildup and appreciation, and to tax qualifying conservation ground that is removed from production, at the lowest allowable soil value.

Daniel James, legislative aide to Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, who chairs the House committee, told Farm and Dairy May 23 that he believed the House version of the bill was being amended, and would not be scheduled for another hearing until the House reconvenes — following its summer break.

Public opinion

More than 30 farmers from across the state have testified in support of the bills, and some nonfarmers have also testified in support. The first testimony that was not a proponent came during the Senate committee’s last hearing on the bill, April 27, when some county auditors and an Athens County commissioner testified as interested parties.

They pointed out the potential tax burden to residential property owners, if farmers’ taxes are reduced.

According to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the bill would result in a net revenue loss to school districts and local governments of $15-$30 million, and an increase in residential taxes of $34-$71 million.

More action

Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Sabina, who chairs the Senate committee, and also farms, said there will be more hearings on CAUV.

”I am very committed to getting that done,” he said.

Lawmakers will need to act soon if the changes are to show up in farmers’ 2016 tax values.

Brandon Kern, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, said those values will be finalized at the June 2 meeting of the Ohio CAUV Ag Advisory Committee meeting. He said that date isn’t necessarily the end-date for reform, but farmers were hoping to know their values by then.

Kern said the recent pause on the bills is likely so lawmakers can talk over the effects of the bill, and the total impact.

“Lawmakers have kind of taken a pause to consider both what we were proposing and the impacts,” Kern said.

Typically, when farmland taxes go up, residential property owners pay less, and vice versa.

Farmers and woodland owners became upset over the past couple years, when economic factors, including historically low interest rates, caused CAUV taxes to increase two-fold and higher.

More accurate

Kern said his goal is to make the CAUV formula more accurate, and that even without public hearings, lawmakers could still be actively working to that end. He hopes something will be done soon, so county auditors and farmers will know their numbers.

“The later we get into the summer, the harder it’s going to be to get changes made,” he said.

Ted Finnarn, a Darke County attorney who serves on the ag advisory committee, said the June meeting was the target.

“We wanted that bill passed by then,” he said.

He still thinks there is time for the legislature to pass the bill during the current session, pointing to other bills that have been approved in less time.

“If the legislature wants to pass something, they will,” Finnarn said.

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