The Cavalier County Soils Committee has been working hard finding a solution to the dilemma of inaccurate tax values that are currently in place for many agricultural soil parcels.
By Melissa Anderson
The soils committee along with Cavalier County Tax Director Pam Lafrenz recently put forward a recommendation to the Cavalier County Commission to completely remove all soil modifiers on agricultural parcels and start from scratch.
The Soil Productivity Index (PIs) is a rating that comes from the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and provides a ranking of soils based on their crop production potential.
“This rating will compare a soil’s potential yield against another over a period of time,” Lafrenz explained, “Because of the PI rating system, some of the current modifiers have become obsolete.”
The soils committee members carefully considered the best course of action in trying to address and rectify this problem that the agricultural soils currently have. The decision to remove all soil modifiers was the best and fastest way to get all parcels up-to-date.
“The modifiers have been removed to get back to a clean slate. In the past, modifiers have been incorrectly applied, inconsistent, or duplicated. This causes inequity, not equalization,” the committee explained.
The new break-point that was recommended and accepted by the Cavalier County Commisson at the January 5th meeting was 34 PI.
“We recommended this number so that the county would not be out of tolerance with the agricultural value per acre provided to the county by the State,” the committee stated.
The soils committee explained that if the county agricultural values per acre are too high, the State will come back and issue an across-the-board adjustment on all parcels, not just those that are out of tolerance.
“This again causes inequity among tax payers, and in essence, we would be shrugging off our duties at the county level back to the State,” the committee stated, ”These decisions aren’t randomly made, but made according to state statute.”
Also, soils data for the county has been updated, and with these updates, the issues that modifiers addressed have been incorporated into and are reflected in the productivity indexes (PIs). For instance, the PI of a soil may have been reduced because the components have been revised to reflect salinity or saturation.
“Some of the issues that modifiers were used for in the past have been accounted for in the new PIs on the soils,” the committee explained, “With the updated PIs that incorporated the reason for the modifiers, the modifiers no longer need to be applied to those specific soils.”
Modifiers are not required by law to be used in the State of North Dakota. Individual counties can choose whether or not to use modifiers. If a county does use modifiers, they have to be approved by the Supervisor of Assessments.
“There are counties within the state that do not use modifiers at all because it is difficult to ensure they are applied equally,” the committee stated.
Another problem that the soils committee and Lafrenz kept running into with the modifiers is that they have not been kept up-to-date and are now inaccurate.
“Removing all modifiers and starting over is the best solution to fix the problems with the soils,” Lafrenz said.
The change will take place for the 2017 taxes. While the change is not permanent, the issue of whether or not Cavalier County needs to have soil modifiers will be revisited by the soils committee for the 2018 tax season.
“The soilscCommittee takes its duties very seriously and plans to make recommendations for adjustments as needed. The issue of modifiers will be revisited for the 2018 tax year,” the committee stated.
Overall, the general consensus of the soils committee and the tax director’s office is that once this process is complete, the duties of the tax director’s office and soils committee of keeping the soils up-to-date will be much easier.
This is not the only item regarding taxation that area producers and landowners need to be aware of for the upcoming tax season. The farm exemption forms will also be going out in the near future.
The state mandated farm exemption forms will need to be returned into the tax director’s office by February 1. Lafrenz reminds farmers and landowners that proof of income will be required for the years of 2014, 2015, and 2016 with the farm exemption application.