What is Amendment 3?
Georgia has more than 159 counties and therefore 159 different interpretations of the valuation of timberland for property taxation purposes. As a result, Georgia's property tax rate per acre on average is among the highest in the south.
The Fair Forest Tax initiative was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor as House Resolution 51 and House Bill 85. Now, all Georgia voters will have an opportunity to support this monumental legislation by voting 'YES' on Amendment 3. Here's what the legislation does.
UNIFORMITY: Establishes a new class of land that is assessed at fair market value as determined by the Department of Revenue
It takes between 25-40 years for trees to reach a level of marketability. Property taxes are due annually. This is a disincentive if taxes are too high. Currently, conservation programs (i.e. CUVA and FLPA) do not work for every landowner, and 4.7 million acres of “Rural Woodlands” pay up to $15.42 per acre on average.
Establishes a new class of land that is assessed at fair market value as determined by the Department of Revenue (rather than 159 different county tax assessors)
Land must be at least 50 acres and managed for bona fide timber production
No covenant is required
Owner must file an annual eligibility certification
CONSERVATION: Increases the acres eligible for conservation under the Forest Land Protection Act
Currently, land enrolled in FLPA must be 200 contiguous acres and landowners must sign a 15-year covenant. These restrictions create an issue for certain property owners that do not qualify for CUVA or FLPA.
Under this legislation, an aggregate of 200 acres across the state may qualify (if parcels exceed 100 acres in any given county)
Also, the covenant length for the program is reduced to 10 years (in order to match the CUVA length requirement)
FUNDING: Maintains Local Assistance Grants for counties and schools under the Forest Land Protection Act
The current formula uses 2008 as the base year for determining fair market value (FMV). This has resulted in unfair over and under payments in Local Assistance Grants.
Updates the FMV base year
Counties and school boards will continue to receive local assistance grants
A five-year phase in mechanism will be established to ease the transition for counties and school boards that have received unfair over payments