In the last week of January, I received a call from the Lincoln County Assessor letting me know that the taxable acres on the section of pasture land in southeast Lincoln County will be adjusted from 640 to 583.While I would like to thank everyone involved for this adjustment, the way this was handled by elected officials leaves me with many questions.
From the time we protested last July until the phone call last week, this has been a very strange chain of events.
My landlord has been taxed on 640 acres for the last 20 years (when they purchased the land).
In July 2016, when we protested the acres, we took USDA Farm Service Agency information (with us) showing the section was only 575 acres.
The FSA used the same procedure to measure this land parcel as is used to measure millions of fields all over the U.S. every year. These are the legal acres as far as the federal government is concerned, as to the size every field in the country.
Was that good enough for Lincoln County elected officials? Not even close!! First of all, the referee did not even present our proof to the commissioners (board of equalization) and/or to the assessor.
When I resubmitted the proof as to the acres, I was told that the federal government numbers would not be looked at, and we would need a “verified” survey. A survey would cost my landlord $3,000 or more.
When I asked the assessor if my landlord would be reimbursed for the cost of the survey or if they would have their taxes adjusted, with interest for the last 20 years, if the survey showed our acres were right, I was told no.
I was told over the phone by the assessor, that there are 22,000-plus land parcels in Lincoln County and she really has no idea how many “actual” acres there are in many of them.
I guess my biggest problem with this whole deal is that, from my point of view, the assessor seemed to not really care about finding out the real number of acres and the correct tax on this land. Now if this deal was over 3-4 acres, I could maybe understand that attitude, but this deal concerned 10% of the acres.
I was further told that, since she did not know the actual acres in all parcels, some people are probably being taxed on less land than they have. It was like this justified the over-taxation of my landlord.
The way this story came to an end is that the County Surveyor Bonnie Edwards came to the rescue. We do not how much time she spent looking through county records, but she found a survey from Dec. 29, 1897, showing 583 acres in this section.
The acres were miscounted when the railroad sold the land (whenever that was), because the railroad just considered all sections had 640 acres, without a survey.
So the people who have owned this land have been paying taxes on the wrong acres for more than 100 years and the assessor really did not care.
I was told that the acres would be changed as of last year, because that is when we protested. No mention of the last 19 years.
The assessor said 640 acres, we said 575 and now it is 583. We were quite a bit closer than she was.
I do not live in Lincoln County and really don’t care who the residents elect to office, but I would think that giving a damn about being fair to the landowners of the county should be part of the job of elected county officials.
Until the surveyor found the 100-year-old survey, my landlord had been treated with plain old fashion contempt by the county.
-- W. Alan Rickertsen, Gothenburg
(A full story of this dispute is in the Bulletin's Feb. 1 print edition. - Editor.)