It not really about the “generous gift beneath the tree” as the Ledger headline suggested in its story about State Senator Ellen Karcher’s property being assessed as farmland (Oct. 5, 2007). It’s really about so much more.
Let’s start with the issue of Farmer Ellen’s incomplete financial disclosure: $515 in annual farm income may not be much to make hay about. That’s all the gross agricultural sales it takes for a seven acre property to qualify for the property tax reduction under State tax law. Still, the legislature’s financial disclosure statement does require all income be reported.
The Star Ledger deserves credit for reminding readers former Governor Christie Whitman stepped in the same manure during her 1993 campaign when questions arose about the farmland assessment on her 50-acre property in Far Hills.
But this retrospective should prompt other stories about the cost of the farm assessment program – particularly in light of the headlines devoted to crumbling bridges, unmet affordable housing needs, stalled school construction plans and a $2.5 billion looming budget deficit. Yikes, no wonder residents are fleeing the Garden State!
Here’s the question that went unasked this week:
What cost $500 in 1963 when the state Constitution was amended to help preserve farm land by assessing it at lower rates would now cost $3220 in 2006. So why isn’t the minimum gross sales threshold being adjusted to keep pace with the cost of living?
Surely real farmers are producing at least that much in gross annual agricultural income.