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Viewpoint: Bring on phase 2 of farmer property tax relief

Steve Drazkowski

Steve Drazkowski represents Minnesota House District 21B

As chairman of the Minnesota House Property Taxes Division, one of my top priorities is to deliver long-overdue property tax relief to our farm families.

We made great strides in this area last session, as a new law institutes a 40 percent property tax reduction for rural landowners if their school district approves a bond levy. In all, 240,000 farmers will receive property tax relief to reduce their proportionate share of school district debt service.

This session, I will sponsor the second phase of our plan that creates property tax fairness for farmers, a bill many refer to as "house, garage, and one acre."

The plan exempts farmland from school construction levies. As it stands today, if residents voted to build a new school, people who owned a home or business within the city would see taxes increase on that property. But if you live in the country and own 200 acres of farmland, your property taxes would increase not only on the parcel where your home resides, but on all the acres in your name. While such a vote might cost a city homeowner hundreds of dollars each year, it very easily could cost a farmer tens of thousands.

This bill treats farm families and city families equally by limiting the area of rural property taxation for school construction levies to the land where the farmer's house and garage reside, along with one acre of farmland.

Let's face it, there are many rural communities facing conflict due to the unfairness in the property tax laws when it comes to school construction. Often times farmers are voting "no" on something they actually support because they simply can't afford the tax increase, and they are getting tired of paying the lion's share of property taxes that someone else approved.

I have little doubt that making this change will ultimately help our local school districts, especially when you consider that in many small communities there are just as many kids living in farm households as there are in town.

The "house, garage, and one acre" bill has bipartisan support, will help increase education quality, and will put farm and town families on an equal playing field. It's my hope that we'll be able to approve phase 2 of our farmer property tax relief priority this session, so our rural landowners will be encouraged to support their schools and students without fear of unfair — and excessive — financial impacts.

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