Forest protection act costing local citizens

Letter to the Editor

In 2008, the voters of Georgia passed Amendment 1, which stated “it would encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state’s forest through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government.”

While this amendment sounded good on the surface, the outcome for the vast majority of property taxpayers has been bad. The Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) gave a few large property owners a very large tax break. Most of these owners are large corporations that own paper or timber companies in multiple states. The FLPA also included a mandate that the state will reimburse the local governments (counties) for revenue lost due to this exemption. However, the state has paid little if any of this lost revenue back to the counties.

Here in Randolph County where I am on the Board of Assessors, the FLPA has cost us approximately $283,000 in tax revenue in 2011. As of this date, the state has not reimbursed any of this tax revenue. In 2012, the FLPA cost to my county was approximately $442,000 and there is little — if any — chance of the state paying that back either. Randolph County is a relatively small county, and tax revenue lost is a major problem for the citizens of this county. As we all know, counties must have money to operate and this money will likely be replaced by large property tax increases on the local property owners.

It appears that the outcome of FLPA is a major shift in the property tax burden from large corporate land owners to small local homeowners and farmers. This shift of taxation is unacceptable and must be corrected as soon as possible. I urge all property owners to contact their state legislators and the governor in Atlanta and ask them to repeal or replace the FLPA.