A change in the rules of the Farmland Preservation Tax Credit program has led to a backlash against the county employees who are tasked with implementing the rules, and some of that reaction alarmed members of the Kewaunee County Land & Water Committee this week.
“I’m seriously concerned about some of the public’s treatment of our employees,” Supervisor Chuck Wagner said.
Under the new rules, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue instructions for the credit, “Additional information is requested when filing Schedule FC-A, you must enter the 7-digit identification number(s) located on your certificate(s) of compliance with soil and water conservation standards issued by the county.”
The problems arise when the county inspector does a “walkover” and finds that a property is not in compliance with those standards, county conservationist Davina Bonness told the committee.
“You do not get a number if you’re not in compliance, so we’re taking away a lot of people’s farm credits because they don’t have waterways done, they don’t have – you know, they have erosion in the field, they have run-off, so we’re taking away thousands of dollars on top of that on tax credits from a lot of different people,” Bonness said.
Property owners have been verbally abusing the employees who do the inspections, or they call and yell at the Land & Water Conservation Department staff, Wagner said.
“We don’t hire bad people. We hire great people, and they are doing a great job in a tough situation,” he said. “We need to also stand behind them and support them in any way we can so we can deal with this stuff civilly.”
Wagner suggested that notices be placed in local media to explain the process to the public and have them call the officials who set the rules rather than take it out on county employees.
“I would suggest you have them call me as chair of the Finance Committee,” Supervisor Lee Luft said, “have them call (County Administrator) Scott Feldt, have them call (Corporation Counsel) Jeff Wisnicky.”
The state implemented the seven-digit number because people have claimed the tax credit in the past whether they’ve had a walkover or not, Bonness said.
“This year they’re being told, ‘Well, no, you don’t get a number because we’ve never walked your property, so we don’t know if there’s any issues,’ and then we get yelled at.”
Supervisor Mimi Dobbins said residents of her West Kewaunee can call her about it.
“I will tell them many, many, many people are talking about water quality and that’s why these measures were passed,” Dobbins said.