Since 2007, when at the behest of then-Governor John Hoeven the state legislature began its practice of buying down local property taxes with state tax revenues, local government entities have gobbled up $752 million in state funds and are demanding more. And current Governor Jack Dalrymple is planning to oblige them, putting into his executive budget a $714 million property tax buy-down which includes the state taking over local property tax mills dedicated to education.
This is a state take over of local education funding. Guess we’re really “keeping it local” now, aren’t we?
But how has all this state spending on supposed “property tax relief” (which is in reality a shift in local spending from local revenues to state revenues) impacted actual property taxes? Well, it hasn’t really impacted them at all. Just like the end of every other year since this nonsense began, North Dakota property owners are being notified that their property taxes are going up yet again.
Here in Minot, property owners will be hit with a 5% levy hike and an average 10% increase in property valuations (my property assessment increased nearly $30,000) according to the Minot Daily News. In Burleigh County (Bismarck), too, property taxes are on their way up. This story will no doubt be repeated across the state, if tax increases haven’t already been announced, as the year comes to an end.
What’s amazing is that the property tax base in these cities are growing. More homes, and more businesses and more developed property means more property tax revenues even if valuations and mills were to remain static. There is, to put it simply, more property to tax and thus more revenues on top of what the state is spending on the “property tax relief.”
What’s not changing is the relentless drive, by local officials, to spend more money. As we can see from this chart showing property tax revenues going back to 1984, the state property tax buy-downs begun in 2007 might have reset property tax levels, but they’ve done nothing to change the growth trajectory.
The upward climb is relentless:
At some point, we’re going to have to admit that more state spending at the local level does nothing to alleviate the property tax problem. In fact, it exacerbates our overall tax problem by obligating the state to more local spending while leaving locals free to continue spending growth in other areas.
The legislature never should have opened this can of worms back in 2007.