It seems as if a political opponent has recently accused me of being opposed to greenbelt taxation so I reviewed the statement that I wrote on OCT 14, 2015 (see below) and add the following for clarification:
When this discussion on greenbelt started back in 2015, I visited Ronda Clanton in her office and we had a very informative discussion on greenbelt taxation.
That was just before a called meeting of the Financial Management Committee on Fri. Oct. 16, 2015 where Ronda Clanton attended and was asked about these issues and certain properties in particular by Robert Daniel. The T-G had an article that Sun.18th, recapping the meeting and ending with, ”The officials attending Friday agreed that asking the state for a performance audit would be an appropriate first step, and that they will re-convene at some point after that.” As noted in my original statement, I did not disagree with a full audit of greenbelt usages.
Ronda Clanton went on in an interview in the T-G on Oct. 20, 2015 to clarify her position.
I was interviewed by Jason Lamb of Channel 5 News which aired on the 20th, and I said, “State law really doesn’t have any vehicle for us to demand the property owners provide proof (of usage).” I also said, “Before we get into raising taxes, I think we need to be sure that every potential source of revenue we have is being done properly.” Keep in mind at this time we are looking how to fund a new school and jail… I asked Jason how many people turned him down for the interview before he called me.. “9 or 10” was his answer.
Jan 26, 2016 at the Financial Management Committee, Commissioner Yoes asked Robert about the status of the greenbelt issue. Robert stated he had not heard anything new from the Comptrollers office. This statement leads me to believe that Robert had contacted the state Comptrollers office asking for an performance audit of the Property Assessors office.
Feb 23, 2016 at the Financial Management Committee, Commissioner Yoes again asked Robert about the status of the greenbelt issue. Robert stated according to the Comptroller’s office, an audit will take two (2) years and they will have to look at every piece of property. Robert stated he would forward the information to committee members to decide on how they want to proceed.
Mar. 22, 2016, at the Financial Management Committee, Commissioner Yoes again asked Robert about the status of the greenbelt issue and was told an email from the Comptroller’s office stated an audit would be costly. Robert suggested, as the 5 year property evaluation was underway, that the committee wait and see those results before acting.
the T-G article on May 5, 2016 detailed Ronda’s visit to the Rotary Club on the property valuation process. During that visit a club member asked about greenbelt. “there are no teeth in that law,” said Clanton. “I think it needs to be looked at.”
And that was the last we heard about greenbelt audits. No discussion or action has been had by the commission since.
In short, The greenbelt taxation is an absolute necessity for our farmers and I am totally in favor of it. The law was enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly with the enforcement of it charged to the Property Assessors office. Ronda Clanton has done, and is doing, an excellent job and I fully support her. But, as with most things involving government and money, there are those who will sidestep, disregard or take advantage of the law, and that is why I was in favor of an audit...not to punish farmers but to ensure everyone was playing fairly.. and until the General Assembly choses to look at it again (and I don’t think they will) nothing is going to change.
Oct 14, 2015
GREENBELT recap of events
Robert Daniels stated that CTAS recommended a review or audit of GREENBELT properties in Bedford County before raising taxes to build a jail. Don Gallagher moved in the Finance Committee on June 23, 2015 that a recommendation for a Greenbelt review be presented to the full commission. On July 14, 2015 at the regular Commission meeting, Don asked for the matter to be deferred, seconded by Bobby Fox. At the August 11 Commission meeting it was again deferred by Don and again seconded by Bobby. At the September 8th meeting, the issue was not on the agenda, and when I questioned it, I was told Ronda Clanton had not had time to schedule a meeting with Robert & Don. Again at the October 13th Commission meeting the matter was not on the agenda, but since I had been informed a meeting with Ronda was scheduled for Oct 16, I did not bring the matter up.
I downloaded and printed the GREENBELT HANDBOOK for Assessors of Property dated July 2013.
Page 1 “The Purpose of Greenbelt” clearly states In 1976 the Tennessee General Assembly (“General Assembly”), “concerned about the threat to open land posed by urbanization and high land taxes,”1 enacted the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act of 1976 (“Act”).2 The purpose of the Act is to help preserve agricultural, forest, and open-space land. This is accomplished by valuing these lands on their present use—“the value of land based on its current use as either agricultural, forest, or open space land and assuming that there is no possibility of the land being used for another purpose”3—rather than at their highest and best use—.....also on page 2 it is stated .....But to take advantage of this, an application must be completed and signed by the property owner, approved by the assessor, and recorded with the register of deeds.9 ......
So I contacted the Register of Deeds and obtained a list of all the new properties listed from Jan 2, 2015 up thru Sept 30, 2015. (205 parcels in 2015) The first property to catch my eye was owned by American City Bank and I wondered why a bank would be entitled to greenbelt status. The address is 3824 Hwy 231 N Shelbyville. I googled the address and found it is Blackberry Ridge Golf Course. The golf course’s current use is not, nor has it been historically used for agriculture, and it cannot be “held for use” on the assumption agriculture will take place in the future.
Page 3 of the Handbook states:
§ 1. The definition of agricultural land.
For land to qualify as agricultural, it must be at least 15 acres, including woodlands and wastelands, and either:
(1) constitutes a farm unit engaged in the production or growing of agricultural products; or
has been farmed by the owner or the owner’s parent or spouse for at least 25 years and is used as the residence of the owner and not used for any purpose inconsistent with an agricultural use.14
Land cannot qualify just because an owner intends to farm. In other words, it cannot be held for use. It must be actively engaged in farming. For example, land not being farmed as of the assessment date (January 1)—or will be farmed after the assessment date—cann