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Time to clear up a few misconceptions regarding taxes

WORTHINGTON -- As an outdoors columnist for the Daily Globe, I have the opportunity each week to write about a subject matter that I hope is of interest to you -- and in the process -- make you a little better informed reader in matters regarding our precious natural resources and outdoor issues.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn't comment on one item or another that appeared in a previous week's column. Many folks have additional questions or can relate to my writing in one way or another. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

One item that is often mentioned is that wildlife lands are bad for the economy because they erode the tax base in the county in which they are located.

I have heard at least 100 times that the DNR pays little or no taxes and that they take exceptional-quality farmland out of production.

This simple is not the case.

I decided to do some in-depth research to prove this stubborn and persistent rumor is genuinely false.

I searched out and received the reports for the last two public land acquisitions in Nobles County, and what I found was exactly what I had expected. The two examples I will show you are a 40-acre parcel near Lake Bella and an 80-acre parcel north of Rushmore.

The DNR makes payments in lieu of taxes based on a specific formula. The formula is as follows; payments will be equal 3/4ths of 1 percent of the purchase price for the first five years, with the property being reappraised after five years and the payment adjusted accordingly.

In the two properties mentioned earlier, the numbers come out like this. On the 40-acre parcel, the non-homestead taxes collected by the previous owner were $358 or $8.95 per acre. The DNR payment based on the current formula is $746 or $18.64 per acre. This computes to approximately a 120 perccent increase in total tax revenue.

In the second example the non-homestead tax revenue collected from the previous owner was $1190 or 14.88 per acre. The DNR payment is scheduled to be $1491 or $18.64 per acre. This represents a 25 percent increase in tax revenue over the previous owner.

These dollars are split up in the normal fashion, going to different government entities and the school districts.

Not only does the DNR pay taxes, but in many cases they pay significantly more. The state also pays the same rate regardless if the acre is a wetland, upland or road.

As I was writing this, I visited with another person who was sure that the state paid no taxes. This misconception is so well traveled and so well entrenched in members of the general public that many people don't believe the facts even when they are presented with them.

One of the other important facts about public lands other than the facts regarding the taxes paid on them is the fact public wildlife lands are a very low maintenance for the counties in which they are located in. These properties require very few government services compared to other landowners, thus they are a very low cost to the governmental units that service them.

It is my hope that by sharing this information more people will embrace the public land concept, not only for the soil, water, and wildlife benefits, but also for the economic benefits enjoyed by the county in increased tax revenues and the tourism dollars created by them.

I have always said that public lands benefit every person, even if they never set foot on them.

The next time you hear that the state doesn't pay taxes on wildlife lands, you are now in a position to set the record straight. I hope that you will do so when the opportunity arises.