Currently, forestland property taxes in Georgia average approximately three times higher than any other state in the Southeastern U.S. Amendment 3 will address this issue by: 1) provide uniformity in the valuation of timberland across the state’s 159 counties, 2) increase the conservation of forestland on properties “at-risk” of conversion to other uses, and 3) update the Forestland Protection Act local assistance grant funding formula to ensure county government and school boards get proper reimbursement for the conservation program.
Amendment 3 addresses uniformity by establishing a land assessment classification where the fair market value of timberland will be determined by the Department of Revenue. Currently, the fair market value of timberland for tax assessment purposes is based on land classification values established by the county tax assessor. Uniformity in the valuation methodology and procedure will be established by having the Department of Revenue determine fair market values. If Amendment 3 passes, landowners with over 50 contiguous acres of property being managed for timber production can file an annual eligibility certification to ensure the Department of Revenue establishes the fair market value assessment on their timberland.
Amendment 3 addresses the conservation of timberland by increasing the acres eligible for enrollment in the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA). Currently, FLPA provides landowners with over 200 contiguous acres of timberland the opportunity to enroll in a 15-year conservation covenant that requires the property remain in timber production in exchange for a conservation value assessment. Under the new legislation, eligibility is revised to allow an aggregate of 200 acres across the state (with a minimum individual parcel size of 100 acres in any given county). Thus, Amendment 3 provides some landowner’s who previously didn’t qualify the opportunity to enroll lands into FLPA while also encouraging landowners in transitioning areas to enroll by shortening the covenant length to 10 years.
Currently, a FLPA enrolled property’s ad valorem taxes are based on a Department of Revenue determined conservation value assessment rather than local taxing authority’s assessed value. The State of Georgia provides a local assistance grant to each county to make up the difference in the county tax revenue from properties enrolled in FLPA. This reimbursement grant is currently calculated using the 2008 assessed values. Amendment 3 will update the FLPA reimbursement formula to use 2016 assessed values and then establish a schedule of updating assessed values in the formula every third year (2019, 2022, etc.) thereafter.
We encourage you to visit www.fairforesttax.org to learn more about Amendment 3. This website is a great resource and will help you make an informed decision on November 6th. If passed, Amendment 3 will benefit the working forest in our state for generations to come.