Farmers, who are seeing the value of their land jump dramatically because of land sales that are pushing prices past $10,000 an acre, would see a $483 jump in county property taxes on a hypothetical homesteaded farm valued at $1.1 million this year — because its taxable market value will be $1.5 million in 2014. That would put the farm's county tax bill at $2,927.
The owner of smaller $452,000 farm (about 75 acres) will see the valuation rise to $610,000 and the county tax bill jump from $994 this year to $1,190 in 2014.
"It looks good for the city of Mankato, but you've got to feel for the farmer," said Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg of Mankato.
Stalberger said farm sales this year demonstrate that the county still has a ways to go in getting taxable values (currently averaging roughly $8,500 per acre) up to actual market values.
"We're looking at double-digit increases again," he said for valuations on farmland for the 2015 tax year.
The good news for farmers is that the housing market is finally starting to rebound, so residential properties should see rising values again in coming years. That will ease the shift in tax burden toward ag land. But it's been a dramatic shift in recent years.
For the 2011 tax year, owner-occupied homes made up nearly 36 percent of the county's tax base, commercial/industrial was 26 percent and ag land was 22 percent. In 2014, farms will constitute nearly 33 percent of the tax base, commercial will be less that 24 percent and homesteaded residential property will be down to 26.5 percent.
Because the levy is frozen and taxable market values are based on actual sales, there's little the county board can do to alter the shift in who is paying the tab. Still, Commissioner Mark Piepho figures the board will be hearing from frustrated farmers.
"But we're really the messenger," Piepho said. "... We could get shot, but we're the messenger."