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Local implications likely in tax case from N-CORPE
They say agriculture is the only industry where producers buy raw material at retail and sell finished products at wholesale.
Does that include water, the most vital component?
And, does the "factory" involved in the production deserve to be taxed, even when its output is going to be drastically reduced?
How about the entities, especially school districts, that depend on the tax proceeds?
Those are some of the issues the Lincoln County commissioners are grappling with as they are forced to break new ground in connection with new water issues.
On Monday, the board refused to grant a tax exemption to 19,500 acres that have been converted from irrigated potato production to grassland.
In action that will by challenged by the N-CORPE agency -- Twin Platte, Upper, Middle and Lower Republican natural resources districts -- Lincoln County commissioners instead accepted the county assessor's plan to tax the parcels at grassland value.
"That way, I'm basically giving them an exemption on the water," Assessor Julie Stenger told the board.
Even at that, the Wallace school district will lose tax support, though not to the level, 8 percent, it would have had the land become totally tax exempt.
Twin Platte NRD general manager Kent Miller noted that N-CORPE would pay taxes if it could, but its lawyers say public funds can't be used to pay property taxes. Miller can see both sides of the issue, since he also serves on the board of the Mid Plains Community College Area which stands to lose some income as a result of the valuation change on the former farmland.
N-CORPE purchased the land, took it out of crop production, and plans to pump the water, instead, into the Platte and Republican rivers to meet environmental and Republican River Compact demands. Legal challenges to the plan were not unexpected, and this almost certainly won't be the last.
Southwest Nebraskans, who will face similar issues if more irrigated land has to be taken out of production, will do well to keep an eye on the case.