Rep. Mike Nathe, Published July 08 2013
Letter: Now it’s up to local government to follow ND Legislature’s leadIn funding $850 million in property tax relief, the 2013 North Dakota Legislature has done its part to reduce your local property tax bill. Now it is up to local elected officials to do their part and hold the line on spending and property tax increases due to rising home values.
The state does not set property taxes, does not collect them, and the state certainly does not spend property taxes. The power over local property taxes is given to local entities such as cities, counties, park districts, townships and schools. The state does, however, have the power to allocate money to buy down local property taxes by providing these local governments more state money.
That is what we did during the last session.
The state has a constitutional obligation to help fund education and, as a result of the work done during the 2013 session, the state will now fund about 80 percent of school districts’ budgets. The Legislature appropriated more than
$1 billion for school operations and $656 million in state-funded property tax relief for schools. This school property tax relief will replace school funding, which in the past would have been drawn from local property taxes.
To reform our state’s school property tax system, the new education funding model also contains restrictions on the percentage of home value or mills that school districts can levy. Any mill levy over the state limit for a school district would have to be approved by a vote by the residents of the school district.
In addition to the property tax relief provided for schools, the Legislature also provided $200 million in a state-funded property tax credit. This credit will be deducted from your overall annual property tax bill. The combined property tax relief packages should cut an average 40 percent off of your 2013 property tax bill.
Whether all this property tax relief will end up in your pocket is now in the hands of the local governments. These local government officials have the choice of passing the state-funded tax relief on to their taxpayers or letting rising values and increased spending consume part or all of the state-funded property tax relief. Taxpayers and voters must hold their local elected officials accountable for how this tax relief is managed.
Even in the face of rising values, these boards and commissions will have the choice to reduce the local property tax mill levy to ensure local taxpayers realize the tax relief intended by the state Legislature.
The Legislature has heard the call from the residents of North Dakota to reduce property taxes and has responded by providing more than $850 million in property tax relief. Now it is up to the local governments to do their part.
Nathe, R-Bismarck, is chairman, House Education Committee.