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Ag land values to rise again
February 06, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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During Monday’s meeting of the Scotts Bluff County Board, County Assessor Amy Ramos told commissioners that ag land values would be going up again by about 20 percent because of new state guidelines.

She explained the state TERC board (Tax Equalization and Review Commission) requires ag land values to be comparable with the same land in bordering counties.

Last year, the assessor raised the value of dry land slightly to assure it was valued above grassland. “I had fewer than 10 sales on dry land last year, so I was uncomfortable with raising the value too much,” Ramos said. “Grassland value was creeping up enough to where it’s common sense that dry land would be above that. But I didn’t have enough sales to justify an increase.”

However, the TERC board wasn’t satisfied with the slight increase in dry land. “They aren’t looking at statewide equalization,” Ramos said. “They want to make sure that farmers have the same amount of taxation on both sides of the county line.”

She said there was another county in eastern Nebraska that resisted the large increase in value recommend by TERC, which raised the rates by about 40 percent.

“I figured I would take the best road for our constituents by staying in compliance,” Ramos said. “That meant a 20 percent increase over the already increased valuation, but again, it’s hard for me to justify with so few sales.”

She added the lower classifications of dry land received the biggest percentage of increase in value. Other classifications, including the best irrigated land, also increased significantly. Landowners will see those increases when the new valuation notices are sent out in June.

“All three land classifications went up this year,” Ramos said. “But we’re about two years in
arrears, so if values go down, we won’t see it right away.”

The makeup of the county board will also change this election year. Mike Marker, who’s served as commissioner in District I for the past 12 years, will not seek another term.

However, two other candidates have stepped forward. Business owner and insurance agent Kirk Arnold will seek the position.

“Mike’s done a good job over the years, but I saw an opportunity to get involved,” Arnold said. “I think my business experience could be put to good use as an elected official. Most of the work will be geared toward taxes and budgets.”

Also running for the open seat is Gering business owner Chuck Cowan, who was also former president of Oregon Trail Days.

“I’m going to ask the people what I can do for them, because they’re the ones I’m working for,” he said. “I want to do the most good I can for the county. The biggest challenge we have is the budget. I want to keep the budget in hand, but we still have to provide needed services.”
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