"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Farmland ‘Roll-back’ Tax - Part II

A reader emailed us about the Democrats proposed new seven-year farmland ‘roll-back’ tax. We asked if we could share his situation with our readers and he agreed. His email is posted below with his name and town removed to respect his privacy:

The Dems are proposing to change the "Roll-Back" rules on farm assessed land. Making the landowner pay back 7 years of back taxes instead of the current 3. This is bad public policy for New Jersey as it is going to lead to many thousands of acres being sold off for immediate development. Additionally, it is going to kill smaller land owners that have significant investments in blood, toil, sweat and equipment.

If you have a moment, let me explain the impact on people with smaller lots or the "rich" as the Dems are fond of saying.

I own 8 wooded acres. My 8 acres consists of 4 acres that the township decided that I can't develop or disturb the soil (no bridges over brooks or filling in gullies for trails) and yet with all these restrictions the land would get taxed at full developed land rates because of the "privacy" it affords me.

In order to get into a farmland assessment I had to show $525.00 in wood sales (cut, split and delivered firewood) for 3 years; I had to pay a certified NJ forester to produce a woodland management plan and have to pay him each year to come out and certify that I am following that plan; the tax assessor must come out and validate that I have actual activity on the land.

In order to meet these requirements I have spent at least $19,000 in capital expenses (equipment). Each and every year I have to cut down enough trees to equal 3.5 - 4 cords of wood, cut the trees into logs, split the logs, advertise my product and deliver my product. I do this on weekends. I have to report this income on my taxes and provide receipts to the tax assessor. For all this work I'll save a grand total of $1,900 this coming tax year.

So why do I do for the minor savings?

More importantly, the woods need to be managed. Managed woods allow for the culling of trees from the forest allowing the small trees to grow and the undergrowth and seedlings to grow stronger. This helps stop fire damage, provides better habitat for the little woodland critters (including bears), provides for local consumption of renewable resources, provides for clean water from my brooks that run into the south branch of the Raritan. In too many places I see woodlands that have been placed into conservation whether owned by the Government or privately being destroyed because they are not being managed.

How does the farmland assessment program help?

I use the savings from my taxes to manage the land. It pays for the forester, It helps pay for the equipment, some goes to planting new trees, some goes to preventing erosion in the stream walls and, most of all, between the minor tax savings and my sweat equity I will leave the world a small but better 8 acres.



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