Farmland Assessment Fix – Does it go far enough?

From the Star Ledger:

Bill to stop ‘fake farmers’ from getting large property tax discounts passes N.J. Senate panel

A Senate panel has approved a bill to make it tougher for property owners to qualify for large property tax discounts if they use their land for farming.

Under the bill (S589), sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), those who claim a farmland tax exemption would have to sell at least $1,000 worth of products from five acres of land – up from $500.

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved the measure 4-0.

New Jersey’s farmland tax exemption is intended to preserve open space and keep farmers in state. But it’s been controversial for decades. Environmentalists say real estate developers claim it for land they plan to develop later, and wealthy residents — including several high profile politicians — sometimes use it to pay lower taxes on their estates.

“There is nothing that really guides our tax assessors as to what is and isn’t a farm. So the result has been that we have a lot of fake farmers,” said Beck.

The state senator Beck defeated in 2007, Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth), had some of her Marlboro property classified as a farm, saving her tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes because she sold about half a dozen Christmas trees.

Former Gov. Christie Whitman reduced taxes on her two estates by selling cords of firewood to relatives and friends. U.S. Reps. Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.) and Jon Runyan (R-3rd Dist.) have also faced
criticism from political opponents for using the program.

Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel opposed the bill because he did not think it went far enough.

“When land speculators and big corporations use farmland assessment to get around paying taxes, we have to make up the differences,” he said.

Added Tittel: “Raising it from $500 to $1,000 is 10 extra Christmas trees at someone’s house in Manalapan.”

This entry was posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Farmland Assessment Fix – Does it go far enough?

  1. grim says:

    From the NYT:

    Signs Point to Rentals

    Recent reports on real estate activity in the first quarter of 2012 indicate a continued shakeout for home buyers and sellers, but the rental market is another story entirely. The less-than-promising sales numbers are evidence of a market that has not quite fully corrected itself, New Jersey housing experts say, while the strong rental market makes perfect sense given the state’s shifting demographics and job opportunities.

    “The decline in homeownership rates is really a correction of the housing bubble,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, in reference to a new census report that found homeownership nationwide had fallen to a 15-year low of 65.4 percent, versus a high of 69.2 percent in 2004. “There were many people who shouldn’t have been homeowners, and now they’re not going to be.”

    In New Jersey, the ownership drop has been even steeper: to 64.4 percent the first quarter of this year from a high of 71.3 percent in early 2005, according to data compiled by the Otteau Valuation Group. The company president, Jeffrey Otteau, pointed to the 8.2 million homes around the country that have received foreclosure notices as proof that “homeownership rates rose to unsustainable levels.” Factor in job loss and declines in income, he said, and the result is “a large share of households nationally and in New Jersey that found homeownership unaffordable.”

    The obvious alternative: renting. Nationwide, 34 percent are now renting, compared with 31 percent in 2005. In New Jersey over the first quarter, the renting population was at 35.6 percent. Mr. Hughes attributed the strong market to three factors: retiring baby boomers looking to reduce their commitments; those baby boomers’ children who are just entering the workplace and find renting suits their incomes and lifestyle; and the state’s growing immigrant population that veers toward urban markets.

    The resulting rental boom has been much needed, according to Mr. Hughes, who predicted that the housing market would tilt toward the rental side for the remainder of the decade.

    “Three or four years from now, if they keep building at the rate they’re building now, the possibility of overbuilding is very real,” he said. “But the demand right now is still very strong.”

    Strong demand has been reducing vacancy rates while pushing rents ever higher, according to the Otteau data. The average vacancy rate for rental apartments statewide is now at 3.7 percent, the lowest level since 2001. Mr. Otteau defined this as “virtually full occupancy,” figuring in a two-week turnover time between annual renters. And rents — for a typical unit, built in 1965 with one to two bedrooms — are averaging $1,274 a month, 2 percent above the $1,249 of a year ago. In the newer luxury apartments, rents can run much higher.

    Gary Large, president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, said rents were expected to rise about 10 percent by 2014. That prediction, combined with record low borrowing rates, supports the argument that this is the perfect time to buy, according to Mr. Large, manager of Prudential New Jersey Properties’ Morristown office.

  2. grim says:

    As for the headline, not far enough.

    The fix is simple, adjust the $500 minimum requirement (in 1964 dollars) for inflation, and ensure it adjusts for inflation every year going forward. $500 was a significant sum … in 1964 when the original law was passed. Had the original law adjusted for inflation, which it should have, the limit would be around $3,500 today. Since it didn’t, it is no longer a limit, it’s now a simple loophole. This new limit will have absolutely no impact on any real farmers.

  3. grim says:

    If they insist on $1,000 as being the right number, I’d suggest basing eligibility on the last 5 years of revenues.

    I’m sure everyone will be shocked to find that all these farms just coincidentally discovered all of the extra productive capacity needed to meet the new minimum the same year in which it was passed.

  4. Mike says:

    Good Morning New Jersey

  5. gary says:

    Gary Large, president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, said rents were expected to rise about 10 percent by 2014. That prediction, combined with record low borrowing rates, supports the argument that this is the perfect time to buy, according to Mr. Large, manager of Prudential New Jersey Properties’ Morristown office.

    Hey Mr. Large, what about out-of-control property taxes? I’ll wait for your response.

  6. Mike says:

    Grim 2 Absolutely no impact at all. Just wondering, do the products have to be grown on those acres or can Mr. Green Jeans purchase elsewhere and set a stand up in front of his mansion?

  7. Mikeinwaiting says:

    Big whoop now just have to have a few friends give you a few checks for a grand or so and kick it back cash. This is of course instead of doing it to the tune of $500.

  8. grim says:

    I made $2,000 on my .43 acres, I should be able to claim farmland assessment on the grounds that I’m a more productive farmer.

  9. 3b says:

    #5 gary: And if the economy continues to perform poorly, how much can landlords raise rents? Can’t get blood from a stone.

  10. Mikeinwaiting says:

    3b 10 That was/is my contention if things are that bad who will pay these supposed ever increasing rents.

  11. Mikeinwaiting says:

    Strange things afoot seems my short sale is moving along quickly. Bank’s appraisers done even before out of review. Sellers attorney making noises about they can’t get out/close till after Jul 30th (heading south with Mom & Dad). Nice people by the way injury/illness caused them to get in trouble. Been over a few times sat down with Dad to go over the deal without all the buffers, will get the place in good order. Surreal considering what I know of the process from grim and horror stories all around from others.

  12. Anyone who thinks these politicians and their pals aren’t waging active war against us should read the above article another 12 times.

    Nothing changes until we start executing these criminals.

  13. speedkillsu says:

    Who will pay the rents ?…not who but how many families will be stuffed into that rental .

  14. Comrade Nom Deplume says:

    1000 is still a joke. Heck, I’d buy 2,000 of produce, claim I grew it, and sell it to a farm stand for 1,000 if it saved me 30,000 in taxes every year.

    How many of these farmers are willingly taking a loss or foregoing market profit on what they sell just to arbitrage the tax exemptions? My guess is quite a few.

  15. t c m says:

    Does anyone have any experience with the park and ride in West Orange at the Cody Arena – or any of the bus lines into NYC?

    How long is it really? Is there parking available or a waiting list?

  16. gary says:

    3b [10],

    I’ve been told more than once that it’s very competitive here in North Jersey and if one can’t afford to live here, then one should consider moving out of state.

  17. Farmer Jim says:

    Agree with Jeff Tittel, the increase to $1000 is inadequate. This ag production requirement could be achieved by lining your driveway with a few blueberry plants. In my opinion any reform of farmland assessment should also include a lengthening of the roll back period for developed farmland from 3 years to say 10 years with revenue going to municipal farmland preservation efforts. Abuse by land speculators who always have the intention of developing is what irks me.

  18. reinvestor101 says:

    It’s bad enough that I got mucked by the damn FB IPO, but I don’t want to have to worry about some damn long haired hippy liberal throwbacks joining up with some damn disgruntled nurses and trying to start some shlt against the establishment in Chicago:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/19/us-nato-summit-arrests-idUSBRE84I09K20120519

    Let’s get something damn straight–I stand on the side of law and damn order and they need to just dispense with a damn trial and just detain these people. A damn liberal judge ruined that plan the other day though by challenging the NDAA. We need that damn law and as soon as it gets passed, I expect to see a certain person on this board (along with his stinking dog) detained indefinitely. I hope like hell he’s being watched so they can pick his ass up as soon as the legal clearance is in place. He’s dangerous and could influence people. We don’t need that.

  19. 1987 condo buyer says:

    $1000???? That is crazy and a joke and the sponsors should be recalled. How about $100,000 as a minimm.

  20. reinvestor101 says:

    One of the damn terrorists in Chicago was complaining about being handcuffed for 18 hours and not allowed to go to the damn bathroom, so he was forced to wee wee on himself. The punk should have thought about that before he showed up trying to use beer supplies to make a damn Molotov cocktail. Next time, put on some damn depends you wuss.

  21. Mikeinwaiting says:

    condo buyer 20 that is pushing it, a lot of small time guys up here in Sussex have running farms make 30-40 k from it and live within their means simply and happy.

  22. Drachma says:

    For those of you looking for the uber lux Nompound / preppers, William Sonoma can help you:

    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/agrarian-garden/agrarian-garden-chicken-coops/

  23. Comrade Nom Deplume says:

    Spent the entire day working with tools, keeping up the yard, and building a monstrous trampoline. Now sitting in the adirondack chair I made, having a cold one. Feeling quite manly.

  24. Comrade Nom Deplume says:

    [22] drachma,

    What does it say when W&S caters to preppers?

  25. Comrade Nom Deplume says:

    [17] gary,

    Doing just that. Guess I can’t hack it. Or don’t want to.

  26. Fabius Maximus says:

    #22 Drachma

    WS is not uber Lux! You want some high end “cred”?

    http://chickenco-op.com/

  27. Neanderthal Economist says:

    Haha Nom, you and your neighbor can give eachother receipts for selling eachother $1,000 of tomatoes each year.

  28. Mikeinwaiting says:

    Essex 26 How appropriate we sell our t-shirts used, I may never live this down. LOL

  29. Mikeinwaiting says:

    Veto you are on to the next one I gather, driven.

  30. Juice Box says:

    Did they even bother to do an inflation calc on this change? The original law was passed in 1964. $500 is now $3700 if you do a basic CPI calc.

  31. Chelsea won that game right and proper. First time in a long time Cashley Cole put in a decent shift.

  32. t c m says:

    xolepa says:
    May 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    “..I think many of the writers here realize they can’t make the move out here and try to substantiate it by propagandizing the ‘new’ norm. As someone, maybe Grim, mentioned years ago on this forum, most here will never buy a house in their lifetime. Lots of talk. No balls. And another writer here who professes great wealth and mind can’t even make the jump to a better house in a better neighborhood.

    Buying real estate takes research and a risk-taking mindset. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Everyone here says you lose. When that happens, it’s time to buy…”

    Your post makes it sound like the people with “No balls” made a mistake in the last few years by not buying. Having the balls to jump onto the titanic is not a virtue, nor recommended. Most people are adverse to entering into a financial boondoggle. The fact of the matter is that in the past few years the lemmings bought into the real estate market while the smart people sat on the sidelines – all the while listening to people telling them they should be buying.

    I started looking at houses recently. I see many that were just bought in the last few years on the market again. I have to wonder why. Could it be that some of those people with the balls who bought in the last few years don’t like how the rest of their life is curtailed by the giant mortgage payments and taxes? I’m looking at houses below $600K with 15K-20K property taxes! One house had taxes increase $5K in 6 years! I guess it takes balls to put that anchor around your neck.

    You claim that everyone here says you lose. It’s because since most have been on this blog, that’s been the case in general. They haven’t been wrong – and in NJ they still may not be wrong.

    Some people may never buy in their lifetimes because it may take some people’s lifetimes for us to get out of this economic mess – I guess it depends on how long we all live.

  33. gary says:

    t c m [34],

    Great post!

  34. Mikeinwaiting says:

    tcm 34 Hear, hear.

  35. JJ says:

    so went to a BAC short sale this weekend. Home was bought by spanish landscaper in October 2005 for 580K. He made his last mortgage payment in April 2008!!!! Has four kids in school district, lives next to school. Mowing lawning, painting, keeping it nice. Looks like it was a run down house but someone bought it for 400K before him held it for one year and sold it to him. Looks like it was a flipper who did two flipper quality bathrooms and a kitchen. Guy did not do one major repair. What a joke. He is shortsaling now cause bank is finally looks like they may kick him out but doing shortsale he extends his stay.

    Does this guy pay property taxes? Who pays realtor? Guy has a whole construction, landscaping, snowremoval business so I know he works off the books. Big screen tvs, kindles, laptops, well dressed wife and kids, mercedes in driveway so you know he is declaring no income. Even better RE told me at one point he had a tenant upstairs, as he put a kitchen up there, he was renting out a two bedroom apartment upstairs off the books as it was illegal while not paying his mortgage.

    Bank of America needs to foreclose quicker. Forget about bankers and mortgage brokers people who live mortgage free for years who put nothing down are the real thieves.

  36. 3b says:

    #34/36 tcm/gary: As you know I am buying now, because I have to,and selling (close to the top) and renting real cheap, made perfect sense. Funny now all the big cheeleaders I know do not want to talk about real estate any more. Or if they do they will say well it will come back, they don’t know why it will come back, but it will. Or they will say it does not matter because in 20 years when they sell they will get all of the money back they sank in the house. You cannot get more ignorant than that!!!

    I listened to so much shite over the years, and were not for my spouse I would have slammed people a long time ago. I am only buying now because my long term rental is coming to an end. And as much as a discount that I am paying, I still expect prices to fall more. Who can talk about owing something with property taxes at 15K, even if the house is paid for!!! I just came back from a long run in my town,and I can honsestly say I have never seen it look shabbier. Houses that have been renovated in the last few years that are falling into disrepair. Mc Man’s with buckling siding, and peeling stucco. And lawns that have not even been mowed yet at the end of May!!! House after house, after house!!! Where is the pride of ownership and all of that krap!!!!

    And funny almost every other house seems to have a BMW, Benz, or Audi in the driveway!!! I guess if you have to pay for something the status car will come first!!!

  37. 3b says:

    OT: It is time for a new BBQ, always had a Sears Kenmore, are these Weber grills worth the money?

  38. t c m says:

    39 3B-

    “…..Who can talk about owing something with property taxes at 15K, even if the house is paid for!!!……….”

    We have become serfs with the bonus of mortgage payments, maintenance, and risk. Sounds like a great deal in NJ.

  39. Drachma says:

    “Bank of America needs to foreclose quicker. Forget about bankers and mortgage brokers people who live mortgage free for years who put nothing down are the real thieves.”

    Correct – if foreclosures were done in 6 months, people would not be playing the games and in some cases, would prioritize the mortgage payment.

    “And funny almost every other house seems to have a BMW, Benz, or Audi in the driveway!!! I guess if you have to pay for something the status car will come first!!”

    People like their status symbols and they pay for them as they know if they don’t, the car will get repo’d in the middle of the night. Interesting thing about consumer behavior pertaining to debt – when the debt is used to provide someone with something they need and that something gets taken away in a timely fashion when it is not paid for, people find a way to meet their obligations. I’ll bet Verizon keeps customers who don’t pay their cellphone or cable bill on a short leash.

  40. Anon E. Moose says:

    3B [40];

    I always wanted to get a surpluss 55 gallon drum and just go to town with a Sawzall and some basic hardware. YMMV.

  41. Anon E. Moose says:

    JJ [38];

    Bank of America needs to foreclose quicker. Forget about bankers and mortgage brokers people who live mortgage free for years who put nothing down are the real thieves.

    BOA got into bed with the feds; there’s a “Bernake Put” available if they ever need the capital, so why bother foreclosing? That might rile the natives.

  42. Essex says:

    40. Weber of Skokie, Illinois. You betcha!

  43. Brian says:

    Hands down, the best grill I’ve ever owned.

    3b says:
    May 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm
    OT: It is time for a new BBQ, always had a Sears Kenmore, are these Weber grills worth the money?

  44. Marilyn says:

    Gary, I just got back from seeing my Brother in Law. He runs Seton Halls Computer systems. He told me they are looking for a guy. If interested you can fill out seton halls website on line application. My brother in laws name is Bill Petchter. Its computer lininx and all that crap . He set up/programs and that type stuff. You can say Marilyn sent you to Bill (BIL) if interested. They definately need someone!! Or I can get you my BIL email address and you can send it that way. Let me know.

  45. gary says:

    Marilyn [48],

    Thank you! Thank you! I will fill out the website form and also send a hard copy addressed to your BIL.

  46. yo says:

    RE price going up !NJ has 25 schools in the Nations top 1000 High Schools

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/content/newsweek/2012/05/20/america-s-best-high-schools.html

  47. yo says:

    Make that 76 high schools in the top 1000

  48. Mikeinwaiting says:

    3b 40 can you hold on till Sept ,Oct vulture time for grill buying! If not well Weber s are better but how much so for the premium payed well that’s another thing. I look at grills like Bic lighters disposable, buy for 200 or so use 4 yrs get a new one. I picked up one of these last fall for 2 bills, love it.
    http://www.charbroil.com/grills/gas-grills/char-broil-performance.html.

  49. Marilyn says:

    Ok Gary I will get today in the afternoon my Brother in Laws direct email. I will also tell him to look out for you!! Be back around 4 pm with email!! Marilyn

  50. JJ says:

    I went to the 56th best HS in the USA, I must be so smart. WHOO WHOO

    yo says:
    May 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    RE price going up !NJ has 25 schools in the Nations top 1000 High Schools

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/content/newsweek/2012/05/20/america-s-best-high-schools.html

  51. JJ says:

    Lyndsey Lohan went to a top 100 HS too!!

  52. Straight Thought says:

    Grim (1),

    “Gary Large, president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, said rents were expected to rise about 10 percent by 2014. ”

    On what rational basis?
    Maximum rental rate increases are set by a municipality’s health department and based on CPI.
    So how can anyone believe this?

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