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Thursday, June 25, 2009

‘Clean And Green’ Tax Break Unclear For Gas Leases

Should property owners who lease their holdings for natural gas or oil wells lose the tax break they receive under the state’s “Clean and Green” law? That’s an issue that members of the Pa. General Assembly are considering this month.

Hundreds of land parcels in Potter County qualify for lower real estate taxes under Act 319, the Farmland and Forest Land Assessment Act. Land owners sign a contract that prohibits them from changing the use of their property, in return for the preferential tax rate.

If they break that covenant, Act 319 requires that they must pay back the amount of taxes from which they have been exempted, dating back seven years. That penalty is referred to as a “rollback tax.”

A legal issue that has not been clarified to the satisfaction of many county assessment offices — including Potter County’s — is whether gas production is to be considered a “change of use” that is significant enough to trigger the rollback tax.

One interpretation is that the property owner should be subject to the tax penalty on his entire parcel enrolled in Clean and Green if the use changes on a portion of the land.

Legislation now before the General Assembly, including one bill sponsored by Sen. E. Eugene Yaw of Lycoming County, would clarify the issue. Lawmakers may limit rollback taxes to areas where gas or oil wells, wind turbines, solar energy projects, as well as their supporting facilities, are constructed.

The Senate Agricultural Committee recently approved Senator Yaw’s bill. He is hoping it will be moved before the full Senate for a vote. At least two bills in the House with similar provisions also are up for consideration. Potter County Today


Anonymous said...

Potter County and many other counties have been chicken sh*** on this issue.
The law calls for the roll-back taxes on the entire parcel if the landowner breaks his promise and those who have allowed gas drilling are breaking their promise.
You and I have been paying their taxes for them ever since they went on Clean and Green and they promise not to change their land use.
Then they did.
And the rest of us get betrayed after we subsidize them.
See how all the bought off Harrisburg people are trying to change the law? That just proves that these people who have leased for gas drilling have been violators and they have gotten off scott free.

Jonathan Huff said...

The letter of the law reads that change of surface use is what triggers rollbacks. Still there is the ability to subdivide up to 10% of the total acreage and remove it from the clean and green exemption with no penalties. I personally approached the County Tax Assesor prior to allowing drilling on my property and was told that due to the fact that there is a minimal change in surface use, once the land has been reclaimed and the actual well is in place and producing, that they do not consider it an offense.
You people bitching do not pay any higher taxes as a result of my, or any other, Clean and Green exemption so get off your high horse and find another cause to whine about...

Anonymous said...

Well Clean and Green Taxes are a lot cheaper than the regular taxes. Having said that....I agree with Huff, you can alter 10 acres a year under clean and green without breaking the roll back law.

I do pay full taxes and they are very costly. but I want full control of my real estate, so I agree to pay the full price.

Gas wells do not alter farming, cows still roam and hay is still cut on gas leases.

But you kick the cows out and put a subdivision in, then you have broke that "clean & Green" agreement and should have to pay the roll back taxes.

people who pay full tax and dont agree with this, then go enroll your real estate in Clean and green.

Anonymous said...

Yes we do pay higher taxes because you get the big tax break for Clean and Green. Ask the people from the old Hammermill/International Paper Company if they have laughed all the way to the bank because of Clean and Green. Your taxes are pennies on the dollar with your Clean and Green land. But because I own a home and do not qualify for that, a dollar on my tax bill is really a dollar. And my bill is higher because yours is lower.
How can you say we don't pay more because you are paying less?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call Potter County chicken sh**. The law calls for the entire acreage to be rolled back but just because something is written in a law does not make it right. If I own 300 acres and it is farmed, why should I have to pay back taxes for 295 acres of my land when natural gas operations only take up 5? I would totally be willing to pay roll back taxes on the proportionate share affected by a natural gas well. I think it is rediculous to have to pay the entire parcel's back taxes because as is stated the land use has changed. It has in fact, not been changed. I am sure people would be singing a different tune if they owned large enough tracts to put in clean and green. I have worked hard to buy and pay for my property. I also work hard to pay my taxes just like everyone else. Rolling back taxes because an oil and gas lease is signed is rediculous.

Jonathan Huff said...

The government does not say "Ok there is xxx number of acres in the county. We will tax $xxxxx.xx dollars for that total acreage. Mr. Huff is on clean and green so in order to make up the difference we are gonna charge Mr. Anonymous the difference."
You are charged based on the assesment on your home/property regardless of what the other people in the town/county are paying.
If you want clean and green, buy something big enough to qualify for it. Stop condemning and blaming those that have for your shortfalling...

And yes, the Clean and Green law permits property owners to subdivide and remove from the act up to 10% of their total acreage per year if they choose to do so.

Anonymous said...

Hold on Mr. Huff.
If it costs $X million to fund a budget for a school district or township, then the ones who are not in Clean and Green have to pay more than their share of taxes to cover for the ones who have the low taxes because they promised not to change the way they used there land except the 10 acres like you say.
Isn't that right?

Anonymous said...

Amen Mr. Huff

Anonymous said...

The way our Clean and Green is taxed on MY property, and I own all most 200 acres is...My house which is the only building on this property is taxed 100% as well as 1 acre, the only brake I receive is on the balance of the fields.

There is no way in heck I am paying pennies on the dollar when my darn property taxes for the year total just under 5200.00!

And just so you know we do not lease out our land for hunting like some people in Potter County do that take advantage of the Clean and Green program!

I agree with Mr. Huff's post!

Anonymous said...

To the writer at 9:54 and Mr. Huff, you should thank all of us who pay full taxes on our property and actually more than full taxes.
Ours are higher because yours are lower.
You are getting a tax break.
The rest of us make up for it by paying more.
Its just the way it is and you cannot deny it.
It is the way the law was written.

Anonymous said...

June 25, 2009 11:55:00 PM
Don't knock yourself out by patting your own back too hard, okay?!

Well I do not know the value of YOUR home but mine is new (less than 10 years old) and I pay a higher rate than an older home that has been on the books for years.

So I guess I am paying MORE than you because I own more land and a new home.

So If I use your mentality, you are going to cost me more money in the near future when Potter County reassesses the older homes and land to come up with a fare value in which to pay your property tax!

That is just the way it is because all taxes will go up for older homes and land to be reassessed! They will spread the expense out not just charge you for their services.

Jonathan Huff said...

Thursday, June 25, 2009 11:55:00 PM EDT

I Strongly suggest, in an attempt to help you not look so oblivious to facts, that you do your homework before spouting off. As the subsequent poster stated, the taxes are based on assessment of property value. My home is over 160 years old and has over 200 acres. Yes I pay less than homes that I know of that are smaller and have less acreage, but they were recently built. In fact, my taxes would be less than theirs, even without the Clean and Green Act. It is not my fault, it is the fault of the County for not regularly reassessing property values. Don't blame me for their inability to keep up. On the same note, I am sorry that you don't have enough property to qualify for gas leases and exemptions. I am sure that if you did, you would be on the band wagon the same as the rest of us and not shooting off at the mouth with blatant disregard for educating yourself before you speak.
You are entitled to your opinion, even if it isn't worth a spit. But you are only proving to me that you are as ignorant as you are belligerent.

Anonymous said...

June 26, 2009 9:42:00 AM
Amen to your posts!

Anonymous said...

I am pretty good at math.
If a school district needs $1 million from the real estate tax, and Property Owner A gets a big discount because he signs up for Clean and Green, then Property Owner B is not only paying HIS fair share, he is also paying part of Property Owner A's share.

Jonathan Huff said...

Sunday, June 28, 2009 10:09:00 AM EDT


Each and every individual property owner is taxed based on an assessment of their property value. Granted,as stated previously, the older the home, and the longer it has been on the books, the lower that assessed value is. If you qualify for Clean and Green Exemptions, your tax bill is reduced by a percentage. This does not mean that everyone else's goes up by a percentage to offset the difference. If the School District, local government, County, etc... does not feel that the necessary amount of taxes are coming in to cover the expenses, they increase everyone's taxes by a percentage across the board. This includes the older homes and the properties that qualify for the exemptions. This is very similar to the homestead exemptions, that never seem to make it to this area. Another way for the shortcomings to be subsidized is to call for a Township wide, or County wide reassessment. This would effect everyone as well, but would affect the owners of older properties, such as myself, more adversely than newer ones. The reason being is this. The newer homes are taxed based on a percentage of the assessed value for the rates at which the market sat when these homes were put on the books. During a reassessment, these homes would be fairly close to today's assessed values. On the other hand, older homes which have been on the books longer and are assessed at a lower value because of it, will see a much more dramatic increase in their taxes due to that fact. I am not opposed to tax increases to fund schools and local government. I am not opposed to a reassessment of properties to bring them all up to speed, so to speak. In fact I have suggested it many times in the past to the Township Supervisors. Am I cutting off my own foot, yes in a manner of speaking. But on the same note, our roads and other areas of concern within this township are sadly underfunded and rapidly deteriorating. The Supervisors do their best to make ends meet and do whatever is possible with what monies are available, but it is a hard game of catch up.
I suggest to you all, before you complain that your taxes are too high, you take a good look around you and see what the current tax rates are across the county, the state and the nation. You will find that they are some of the lowest. If you want to see a change in policies and think that there is an unfair tax advantage to people such as myself, read the laws that govern them and voice your opinion where it matters. To the County Commissioners and the Local Governing officials. Beating me, and others like myself, up for taking advantage of tax breaks that are available to us is senseless. It will change nothing. Make your voice heard where it will affect a change.
I know that most of you that are commenting here hide behind anonymity, therefore I seriously doubt that you will do what it takes to make a change. But I think that it is safe to say that not one of you would reject the opportunity for a tax break if it were offered to you and you qualified. I mean seriously people, you are blaming me / us for something that we do not control, we merely take advantage of. If you buy gas at a higher price than I do because you didn't go to the right gas station, or waited a day longer than I did, would it be my fault that you paid a higher price?
Think people, use your heads and the good sense that God gave you to focus your energy on making a difference rather than blaming others for the position that you are in. If you spent half of the time and energy trying to make a difference that you spend here berating me / us, think of what you could accomplish. Pool your resources and focus them at the source. You would be amazed at what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it...