Farmland values changing in Ward County

File Photo An area farmer seeds a crop. Farmland values are changing due to new soil maps and equalization adjustments.

Agricultural land values in Ward County would decline 5% on average under an adjustment approved by the county equalization board Monday.

However, that’s a small drop compared to the large increases in valuation that some rural landowners say they are seeing with the implementation of new soil mapping.

Donny Malcomb, a Shealy Township officer and member of the Ward County Township Officers Board, told Ward County commissioners, meeting as the county board of equalization, that a number of residents had things to say about their property valuations at his township’s equalization meeting earlier this year.

“The biggest complaint was they saw property values on some of the properties in our township increase as much as, I believe, 80 to 90% – a lot of them over 50%,” he said. “They were all ag-related farm properties, croplands. It comes at such a time when our economy in the farm industry is horrible.”

The township board had declined to approve the proposed valuations, sending them on to the county equalization board without its support.

Jill Schramm/MDN Ward County commissioners, meeting as the board of equalization Monday, from left are John Fjeldahl, Jim Rostad, Shelly Weppler, Alan Walter and John Pietsch.

“It’s a protest, for sure,” Malcomb explained.

The large increases also impact rural residences as Malcomb noted the valuation on his house went up 97%.

“Valuations don’t increase my income. Only if I sell. It’s getting to the point where I think about that because it could increase my livable income by just selling all the property and investing that money into a retirement fund,” he said. “I am just urging some relief in this.”

County Tax Director Ryan Kamrowski said adjustments have been necessary to properties that had been under-valued compared to similar properties elsewhere in the county. He said valuations must be comparable across the county if the tax burden is to be fairly shared. He said 12 townships saw significant shifts with the adoption of new soil maps, and he attributed that to equalization. Also, in some cases involving rural residences, inequity developed because there hadn’t been re-assessments for some time.

However, Kamrowski also questioned some information presented by Shealy and planned to prepare the township’s valuation data for the board. The board approved the Shealy valuations but also asked for data to review at its next meeting Wednesday at 8 a.m. in commission chambers.

The board adopted the recommendation of the county tax office to reduce the value of ag land overall by 5%. The resulting values would remain within the tolerance for permitted deviation from full value while bringing the tolerance level closer to the deviation being seen in residential and commercial property.

Board member John Pietsch said the county worked hard to create an equal system for ag land that considers soil type, topography and land use. Now the state and political subdivisions need to do their part, he said.

“One important way for us to reduce taxes on land is to trim the budget. Instead of spending more, try to find ways to spend less, and I think we could get help from the state,” he said.


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