Elbow Lake, Minnesota – State Rep. Jay McNamar (DFL – Elbow Lake) announced today that he is preparing legislation to reduce property taxes on agricultural land within the boundaries of low population school districts throughout Minnesota, especially in sparsely populated portions of the border district he represents. The bill will help rural communities who want to retain their public school.
The need for legislative action was highlighted during an education listening session attended by local residents, school administrators, and elected officials in Breckenridge.
“I heard from local residents and school officials, and now we need to take action,” said Rep. McNamar.
Rep. McNamar’s bill would provide agricultural tax replacement aid to local school districts with enrollment of 500 students or fewer. This aid would be targeted to school districts paying for capital improvement projects. Rep. McNamar used the construction of a new school in Rothsay, MN to highlight why the legislation is needed.
“Local residents passed a levy increase to pay for the project, but the costs of new construction will overwhelmingly fall on farmers, some of whom don’t even live in the school district,” said McNamar “You can understand why many in the community want to invest in a new school. It’s a sign of a strong community, it provides a better education to our kids, but this issue of skyrocketing property taxes needs to be addressed. If you have a 500 acre farm and your property tax bill goes up $20,000 a year, that’s completely unworkable.”
Rep. McNamar plans to push the bill immediately when he returns to the legislature in 2015. He was optimistic that there would be bipartisan support for the bill.
“I’ve been talking to Rep. Paul Marquart who chairs the Education Finance committee, and there is already positive momentum. This tax replacement aid will not only strengthen the economy in small towns like the ones I taught in, but it will greatly improve small town quality of life and E-12 education by allowing these investments to move forward in a sustainable way. So many small town schools double as community event spaces.”
As farm land values have continued to increase, the adjoining increases in property tax payments have burdened landowners and highlighted structural inequality that Rep. McNamar has been addressing since the beginning of his first term in 2013. During the legislative session in 2014, Governor Dayton signed legislation that Rep. McNamar passed to replace funding for 11 rural Minnesota counties who had state payments reduced because of inflated farmland property values that distorted county program aid formulas.