Forest Land Protection Act Changes Progress in the Senate
This week, the Senate Finance Committee passed two companion pieces of legislation regarding the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) and other commercial timberland.
is a constitutional amendment, while
is the bill that would implement the changes allowed by the constitutional amendment (if HR 51 is ratified by the voters in November). Both of these bills passed the House in 2017.
Regarding FLPA, these bills would uncouple FLPA grants from 2008 land values, changing to a current-year valuation. Depending on how values in 2019 (the first year this change would apply) compare to 2008 values, the FLPA grants for the various counties/school districts would be higher or lower. Generally, if the 2008 values were higher than 2019, then the grant amounts would be lower, and vice versa. However, a significant difference in the current versions of these bills is that it allows additional FLPA grants for those governments that would be negatively impacted by uncoupling from 2008 values: in 2019, 80 percent of the loss from this change would be available as an additional grant; in 2020, 60 percent; and so on until that additional grant (but not the base grant) is phased out by 2023.
The other significant part of this legislation is the creation of another class of property: "qualified timberland property.” This category would be non-FLPA commercial timberland. Property meeting the standards of this classification would not be subject to preferential (lower) tax assessment. Rather, this property would have to be valued at fair market value using normal appraisal methods. The changes for such property, as compared to other real property,are:
1) the valuation of such property would be conducted by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and
2) appeals of DOR's values, which could be appealed by a board of assessors as well as the taxpayer, would go to the Georgia Tax Tribunal rather than the normal appeal process.
Boards of assessors and taxpayers would also have the right to appeal the annual valuations set out in DOR's appraisal manual for qualified timberland property. Under HB 85, 3 percent of FLPA grants could be withheld by DOR for administrative costs of this new, non-FLPA program.
Please discuss with your tax assessors how these potential changes would affect your county. For more information, please contact Larry Ramsey at