Current Use – Legislation 2014
Current Use (Use Value Appraisal)
The 30-year-old Current Use program helps landowners keep their farm and forestland productive and undeveloped and is one of Vermont’s most widely supported and successful efforts to keep rural lands intact. The program allows landowners to hold on to their farm and forestland by taxing it based on its productive value for agriculture and timber management, versus its value for development.
One-third of Vermont’s land base is enrolled in the program, and land continues to be enrolled every year. To help strengthen the program, the Vermont House passed a bill last year that would, among other things, keep the program on a sustainable path by addressing the existing weak penalty for taking land out of the program and developing it.
The Senate is now considering similar legislation.
Raising the penalty is a good idea because it would:
- Deter land speculators from abusing the program by “parking” land in Current Use for a few years, reaping the tax benefit, paying the currently modest penalty, and then developing the parcel.
- Bring in several million dollars of additional revenue to the support the Program’s continued growth.
- Encourage the long-term enrollment of working farms and forestland, especially in areas where development values are high, and where subdvision is a threat.
Current Use Background
The original goals of Current Use are to:
“. . . maintain and conserve Vermont’s productive agricultural and forest land; protect Vermont’s natural ecological systems; prevent the accelerated conversion of these lands to more intensive use by the pressure of property taxation; achieve more equitable taxation for undeveloped lands; preserve and enhance Vermont’s scenic natural resources; and enable the citizens of Vermont to plan for orderly growth in the face of increasing development pressures.”
The benefits of the program include:
- Fair property taxation to landowners enrolled in the program. Landowners are taxed at the value of keeping their forests and farmlands working and free from development, rather than at the generally higher fair market value. That significantly lowers their property taxes, one of the biggest costs of property ownership.
- Keeping the costs of community services lower. Forestland and farms demand far fewer town services than residential subdivisions or commercial development. That keeps the costs of services for schools, roads, fire and police services and other town expenses lower.
- Helping to maintain Vermont’s rural character and economy by keeping farmers and foresters on their land, working landscapes in production, and the state’s rural economy intact.
- Approximately 40 percent of eligible forestland is enrolled. These lands are managed in acccordance with state approved forest management plans.
- Three quarters of Vermont’s dairy farms are enrolled in the program.
- Approximately 15,000 parcels total are enrolled in the program (two million acres) representing one-third of Vermont’s total land area.