LETTER — Land Use Program keeps us backward and poor

Published 9:28 am Thursday, April 1, 2021

To the Editor:

Property taxes are the main source of tax revenue for most jurisdictions.

Cumberland County consists of approximately 192,000 acres. In Cumberland, more than 25,000 acres are tax free. This includes property owned by the state, Cumberland County, Farmville, Henrico, churches, cemeteries, etc. I am not saying any of these should be taxed — please don’t go there — just trying to make a point. When you include the more than 80,000 acres in the Land Use Program, that leaves only 87,000 acres (45%) supporting the county. This is why our tax rate is over 50% more than surrounding counties.
The Land Use Program is costing the taxpayer $600,000 a year, $400,000 in forestry. Sixteen months ago, a Brazilian investment company (forestry) purchased more than 15,000 acres at a cost of $18,500,000. They received a $98,000 per year tax break because of the Land Use Program.

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Of the counties in Virginia, 20% are not in the program. Buckingham County and Lunenburg County are not in the program. The Brazilian company owns more than 1,000 acres (combined) in Buckingham and Lunenburg. They are an asset there. They pay the same tax as the residents. Buckingham and Lunenburg benefit from agriculture and forestry, while in Cumberland, it cost the residents, including seniors and struggling families, 6 cents per hundred, 4 cents towards forestry alone. There are far more people involved in agriculture and forestry in Buckingham and Lunenburg.

Out of the 60,000 acres in forestry, 40,000 acres are owned by out-of-county entities at a cost of $300,000. There are only 128 county residents in the program. These guys are costing us $400,000 a year in lost revenue. Ridiculous!

You will hear the program called a “deferred tax”. Since the company that sold the property as forestland, no deferred tax was paid. In other words, if the company that sold the property owned it for 15 years, they walked away with $1.5 million of our tax money.

Past supervisors got us and kept us in this program — only the supervisors can get us out. Forestry has got to go!

The Land Use Program does not keep us rural. It keeps us backward and poor. This allows us to become prey for more dumps, both legal and illegal.

Want more info about illegal dumps? Get with Don Unmussig (county administrator) or Brian Stanley (chair of the board of supervisors.

Larry Skweres