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From the Taylor Daily Press: The Texas Wildlife Association recently joined a group challenging how the Williamson County Appraisal District assesses land that qualifies for agricultural tax exemptions. ¶ The Texas Wildlife Association, a statewide advocacy organization that promotes the conservation and management of wildlife on private lands, has joined the non-profit group Concerned Owners of Rural Texas Land. That group has filed a challenge against the WCAD on behalf of 220 county property owners. David Braun of Braun & Associates, a law firm representing the group, claims owners of dozens of agriculture and wildlife-exempted properties in Williamson County are being unfairly taxed on the one-acre home site portion of their land. The home sites are appraised anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000, while the rest of the land is valued at $4,000 to $6,000 per acre, he said. ¶ “The appraisal district is unfairly inflating the value of an arbitrarily designated home site on ag land, whether a home or building exists or not, by sometimes 10 times the value of the surrounding land or more,” he said. ¶ Kirby Brown, executive vice-president for the Texas Wildlife Association, said the appraisal method is fundamentally unfair, and is “contrary to the will of Texas voters.” ¶ “Texas voters overwhelming approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution in 1995 that allows landowners with ag use in traditional farming or ranching to use active wildlife management as another practice and retain their agricultural ad valorem property tax valuation on that land,” he said in a written statement. “Williamson County’s appraisal method essentially overrides the Texas Constitution by over-taxing a part of the land that is used for wildlife management.” ¶ According to Braun, in Texas, if a rural landowner files for exemption under the agricultural tax exemption law set by the legislature and they can prove their land is used for farming, ranching or wildlife preservation, the property is appraised at its income potential and not the market value. That number often is far lower than the market value of the land. ¶ All other property in Texas is taxed at its market value….
–I’m probably going to get in trouble with my ag friends here, but . . . rural land owners enjoy a huge array of tax breaks and subsidies. They can run a few cows on their land and claim an agricultural exemption, which allows their property to be taxed not on its market value but on its productive value. In places like Williamson County, a fast-growing suburban area north of Austin, that can make a huge difference. Ag landowners get tax breaks for open spaces and for wildlife management. They can avail themselves of low-interest bonds for water conservation. If they need advice, they can turn to Texas A&M’s agricultural extension service. If they have trouble with coyotes, the state will send bounty hunters to get rid of them. If they are worried about poachers, they can call on game wardens. They can buy tractors to be used in productive areas without paying sales tax. Animals, fertilizer, defoliates, seed, fence wire and posts, and many other products are likewise exempt from taxation. The state does get a benefit from these programs, but it also gets a benefit from what you and I do, too, except that we have to pay taxes on our urban and suburban homesteads at full market value, and the last time I checked, I had to pay sales tax on my computer. Williamson County isn’t trying to do away with the ag exemption. It is valuing the taxable value of a home higher than the value of unimproved property. Considering the high property taxes people in urban and suburban Texas have to pay on their homesteads, I don’t think it is unfair or unconstitutional for Williamson County to ask rural landowners to pay their fair share on the small fraction of land occupied by their home?
From the Dallas Morning News: Here’s the deal about Kinky Friedman: The man’s funny, seriously funny. Quotes about crackheads aside, the Kinkster can light up a room. And his style works. Some polls show the gubernatorial candidate running second in this year’s race to lead Texas. But here’s the other thing about Kinky: Texas’ 23 million residents have a lot at stake if he becomes governor. Their economy, schools, colleges, roads, air and water depend upon a governor knowing what he’s doing. Pappy O’Daniel taught us way back that we need someone who can do more than entertain. We raise this for two reasons. First, there’s Kinky’s disastrous interview on WFAA-TV this week. He started out telling interviewer Brad Watson he’s not serious about some issues. Then, he belittled candidates who present long plans for various problems. And he made it clear it really didn’t matter what he proposed because he couldn’t do worse than Austin’s corrupt politicians…etc, ect.