State amendment would give tax relief to tree farmers

30 10 2008


STACY SHELTON | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Finding opposition to the state Constitutional amendment that would give property tax relief to tree farmers is not easy given endorsements ranging from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to the Sierra Club.

Amendment No. 1 on the General Election ballot would change the way forest land of more than 2,000 acres is assessed. Instead of fair-market value, the land would be taxed based on its actual use. That method of assessment is already in place for individual and family-owned forests of 2,000 acres or less. The change would benefit corporations and owners of larger land parcels.

Tree farmers in fast-growing areas have seen steep increases in their property taxes, a factor in deciding to develop or sell their land.

One exception to the chorus of amendment supporters is Kate Shropshire, the founder of Urban Independents, a progressive, grass-roots voter education group in Atlanta.

“This is a tough one,” said Shropshire, noting that many of the groups she generally agrees with — including environmental and conservation organizations — support the amendment.

Shropshire’s main opposition stems from the way the amendment is worded, which she calls “misleading.”

“It’s making it sound like we’re protecting land that is public-use land,” she said. “That’s not true. It’s not land that we will own or have access to.”

The question to voters as worded on the ballot, reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state’s forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government?”

In exchange for the tax relief, forest owners must agree to not subdivide or otherwise develop their land for at least 15 years. If they break the agreement, they would have to repay any taxes they would have owed along with other financial penalties.

Read on here.




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