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Ben Hushka, Fargo, Published April 10 2012

Be accurate about tax exemptions

In the Sunday (April 1) edition of The Forum, a letter to the editor by Marty Schoenfeld attempted to represent figures of the exempt property in Fargo and their relationship to the taxable property.

Schoenfeld states that according to information from the office I manage (Fargo City Assessor’s Office), there is $1.7 billion worth of property exempt from property tax and

$330 million worth of property subject to taxation in Fargo. The two dollar amounts he quotes are pretty close, but they do not represent the same thing, and comparing them as equal greatly distorts the facts.

One of the figures –

$1.7 billion – is the “appraised value” of property that was exempt for the most recently certified tax year (2011): $1.66 billion, to be exact. The other amount stated, $330 million (actually $332.78 million), is the “taxable value.”

In North Dakota, the term “taxable value” is a percentage of the “appraised” or estimated market value. For residential property, the taxable value is 4.5 percent of the appraised value. For commercial and agricultural property, the taxable value is 5 percent of the appraised value. Those are the amounts that are multiplied by the mill levy to determine the actual tax that is levied.

The total taxable value in Fargo last year of just over $332 million represents an appraised value of just over $7.1 billion for the properties subject to property tax. So, rather than exempt property being over five times the value of taxable property, as represented by Schoenfeld, exempt property in Fargo represents under 20 percent of all property in the city.

These amounts and an explanation of the term “taxable value” can be found on Pages 6-8 of our department 2011 Annual Report. A copy of that report can be accessed online at www.cityoffargo.com/CityInfo/Departments/Assessor/AnnualReport/.

Hushka is Fargo city assessor.