Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 22, 2013

Public Eye

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Farmers and taxes

With farm land exploding in price, it’s not surprising that farm property taxes have been rising, but Howard County Assessor Jamie Shepard warns next year, the annual jump could be a big one.

Unlike most property, farms are assessed based on income, rather than real estate values, and the assessment uses a six-year rolling average, with the highest year thrown out.

Things have been so good, for so long, however, that next year, the lowest years from the recession will have dropped off. In addition, the state’s long-mandated and long-delayed move to include soil productivity factors in the equation is set to go into effect for the 2014 assessments.

All of that means the base rate for agricultural land, which was $1,760 an acre this year, could jump to $2,030 next year, Shepard said. The farm lobby, of course, will be all over the Indiana General Assembly to try and prevent this from happening.

Their success or failure will go a long way toward establishing exactly how far Indiana is prepared to go in the movement toward a market-based determination of how property taxes are calculated.

Blunted opposition

For several months it appeared that a seat at a meeting of the Howard County Commissioners was the hottest ticket in town.

Opponents of wind farms in Howard and neighboring Tipton counties filled the third flood hearing room of the Howard County Administration Building every two weeks.

During countless hours the opponents made their case to the commissioners to first void agreements for the next two phases of the Wildcat Wind Farm, and/or change the zoning ordinance so that the siting of wind turbines would be more restrictive in terms of property line setbacks, noise and shadow flicker.

Two weeks after the commissioners approved an amended agreement with E.ON Climate & Renewables for the wind farm development, only two opponents were in attendance at the meeting.

Could you please mow?

When Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann toured Howard County Tuesday, she met in the morning with local elected officials, and in the late afternoon with a selected group of farmers, business people and civic leaders.

It was hardly a setup to offer many contentious moments, but even so, the press wasn’t invited to either meeting.

One exchange we wish we’d seen, however, involved Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, who asked Ellspermann if she could do something to ensure the Indiana Department of Transportation does a better job of taking care of the state road corridors in Kokomo.

Ellspermann might have expected questions on taxes, federal and state mandates and workforce development, but we are guessing she probably didn’t expect anything on the state’s “weedians.”

We’re also wondering if Goodnight will end up being uninvited to future meetings with key state officials.

Set ‘em up, knock ‘em down

With the 2014 Congressional elections a little more than a year away, it was not a surprise to learn that Republican Susan Brooks was staging a fundraiser for her re-election bid.

Brooks was elected from the 5th Congressional District in 2012, which includes portions of Howard and Tipton counties.

Her campaign committee is conducting the “Come Shoot Sporting Clays” with Brooks on Monday at the Indiana Gun Club in Fishers.

The event starts with a luncheon at noon with Brooks to make comments to those gathered supporters at 3:30 p.m.

Title sponsorship will cost $5,000 and includes two people shooting with Brooks; a co-sponsorship costs $2,600 with one entrant and $1,000 to sponsor each Sporting Clay Station. Included in the cost is the luncheon, 50 rounds of ammunition and clays, safety equipment and the use of a shotgun.

Eight people can shoot with the congresswoman at a cost of $2,600 each.