Ohio lawmakers are debating whether to reduce property taxes for farmers, a move critics say would raise taxes for rural homeowners and potentially cause school districts to lose state funding.
Proposed legislation in the House and Senate would alter the Current Agriculture Use Value, a complex property value adjustment for state farmland, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The program leads to a lower property tax rate that helps farmers. But Brandon Kern, the director of state policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau, told House lawmakers that with rising crop prices and low interest rates, the CAUV has jumped nearly 300 percent from 2008 to 2014.
Kern said farmers have paid $370 million more in taxes, a 307 percent increase, outstripping the 100 percent increase in commodity prices.
The state started using more updated data last year that has pushed the CAUV down, but farmers still say more help is needed.
"Farmers have paid more and continue to pay more," Kern said. "It's more about getting an accurate value for us, in the end."
Proposed legislation would further reduce farmland values, possibly by more than 25 percent.
A 27 percent reduction would result in residential property owners paying an estimated $71 million more in property taxes, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission. At 13 percent, homeowners would pay an extra $34 million.
Howard Fleeter, an analyst who works for the state's major public education advocacy groups, said that if farmland values drop, urban and suburban school districts will look wealthier under the state's school funding formula, which would likely lead to less money.
Schools could lose at least $15 million in annual local tax losses. Local governments could lose $17 million, according to the Legislative Service Commission.
The Ohio Department of Taxation hasn't taken a position on the bill, a spokesman said.