Since 2007, when then-Governor John Hoeven got the legislature to go along with using state funds to buy down local property taxes, state taxpayers have shelled out more than $752 million for property tax relief. So it’s not unreasonable that North Dakota property owners, getting their 2012 property tax statements, would expect to be paying less.
That doesn’t seem to be happening. A SAB reader from Pembina County tells me that his property tax bill increased 21%. A property owner from Tolna, ND writes to tell me that he and his neighbors are seeing property tax increases of 52% to 78%. I appreciate these reports from readers (the information you folks send me is always welcome), but I didn’t need them to know that we’ve got a property tax problem in this state despite the hundreds of millions spent by the state on buying down property taxes.
I got my 2012 property tax statement in the mail last week, and it detailed a 18.5% increase in my 2012 bill over 2011’s total stemming from a roughly 5% increase in my mill levies and a 12.8% increase in my property valuation.
We can argue about whether the increases in property valuation are appropriate. On one hand, western North Dakota has a hot housing market. On the other, the government has a lot of incentive to inflate values when they also get to tax those values. But remember that the local governments control both sides of this equation. They put a value on the property, and they set the rate at which that value is taxed. The could lower the mills to offset valuations, but they don’t, which means that even as the legislature/governor takes more out of the tax revenues we pay to the state to buy down our property taxes we’re still paying more in property taxes.
And the plan is to make that the status quo. Those property tax buy-downs were temporary in the past, but in his executive budget Governor Dalrymple is calling for a permanent shift in education funding from property tax revenues to state tax revenues. This proposed $714 million in new appropriations to the local level is, once again, being called property tax relief.
But not only is an accumulation of more spending obligation to the state, and state taxpayers, but with history as our guide the result will almost certainly be a continued upward spiral of property taxes.
This isn’t property tax relief. This is property tax fraud. North Dakotans are being told by Dalrymple and other politicians that they are getting property tax relief, but the reality is property tax bills that are higher than the year before. Where’s the relief?
Dalrymple and Republicans need to feel the heat on this issue.