North Dakotans Still Seeing Property Tax Hikes After $752 Million In Supposed Property Tax Relief

Corral Creek Oil

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.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • camsaure

    More “smoke and mirrors” from the RINOs.

  • Captornado

    Just keeping it local Mr. Port.

    • Rob

      That’s the most frustrating part of it. We aren’t fixing the problem. We’re hiding the local spending in the state wide, oil-driven surplus.

      That’s not a fix, that’s a shell game.

      • jimmypop

        and thats why state officials should keep their hands out of it and why measure 2 was such a joke. we are redistributing money that the state should have never gotten in the first place.

        • Rob

          It’s amazing to me how little of this you understand.

          The state isn’t getting any money. The state is taking over local spending so that locals are free to keep increasing spending and taxes.

          • sbark

            for sure……pretty soon every school with 10 kids per class can have a 20,000 electronic sign out front to announce sporting events dates.
            A sign that forces drivers going by on a state Hwy to take their eyes off the road right in front of a school alot longer than any cell phone call or text……..especially with gradeschoolers crossing from the residential area right across the hwy……..stupid is as stupid does…….

  • JW-USA

    It seems to me that the counties and other political sub-divisions are all playing “keeping up with the Jones'”

    If the town down the road builds a pool, we need one too! If they have a community grocery store, we want one too, if they build or re-model a library we have to too! it goes on and on, from paving streets that have beeen gravel for 100 years to building indoor track and field buildings at NDSU. Dickinson builds an indoor water park, Williston responds with a 70 Million dollar monster.

    If you are looking for the enemy, it is us.

    We all want, but we want with some one elses’ money.

    • Rob

      “If you are looking for the enemy, it is us.

      We all want, but we want with some one elses’ money.”

      Well said.

      • camsaure

        That goes to the heart of the reason liberals love taxes, it’s because they expect everyone else to pay them not themselves.

        • tony_o2

          Although they refuse to admit it, the M2 proponents felt that way as well. They felt that they were paying way too much in taxes (property tax bills hit home). So instead of organizing to put their local leaders in line as it pertained to spending, they decided to try and get the State (with all that oil-money coming from the rich) to pay for their love of spending.

    • jimmypop

      if thats what local people want to pay for, let them. its ok.

      fargo has so many wastes of cash i can hardly name them all….but i am in the BIG minority in not wanting these beasts on every corner. so, i pay may taxes with a smile then vote for better (in my mind) people every two years. id rather have it like this than everything in bismarck where i have no say.

      • Rob

        If only what you describe were actually happening. Out here in the real world it’s not.

  • LibertyFargo

    I’d be ok with arguing over property tax and valuations at a local level (local taxes for local govt) but this intermixing of state and local is what is confusing.

    Furthermore they want property tax, sales tax and income tax and then they STRIVE to figure out how to spend it. Apparently measure 2 (and allowing us homeowners to not have to “rent” our property from the city forever) was a bad idea but I’ve YET to hear of a good alternative from the “keep it local” crowd.

    I’d rather have a property tax and a simple State consumption tax and NO income tax at all than what we are doing now.

    Are there conservative/libertarian principled legislators in this state or in my local govt here in Fargo? If there are I don’t see them…

    • two_amber_lamps

      You’ve got the same dreck we have here in Grand Forks… pseudo-conservative RINO tax/spend republicrats or leftists.

      • LibertyFargo


    • jimmypop

      there is no alternative that is better than property taxes. local government is best. local taxation follows. if you think youre over taxed, vote them out. easy answer. you get lower taxes instantly. plus, you get to pick your level of taxation with property taxes. you dont want high taxes, live in a smaller house. if the state over taxes you, you cant do anything to them of any substance.

      the best form of “tax relief” is cutting income and sales taxes. they will NEVER do that because they cant take credit for it ever year.

      • SusanBeehler

        Sales tax could replace property tax and all would be contributing not just property owners

        • tony_o2

          Perhaps we should consider eliminating the State sales tax and allow local governments to raise their sales tax to get rid of their property tax.

          • SusanBeehler

            The state collected enough in sales tax to do just that.

          • tony_o2

            That’s why I said eliminate the State sales tax and allow the local governments to collect the sales tax. Why does local spending have to come from the State?

          • SusanBeehler

            It doesn’t have to come from the state, but you have got to remember not all places in North Dakota have places to shop at the same level as Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot etc. The property tax has to be replaced until the system of taxing is up and working. I was just saying the state is already flush with surplus the sales tax already collected by the state could go back to the local entities until the locals have the kinks worked out with a different revenue source.

      • Rob

        The locals aren’t afraid to use valuation hikes to get even purple in small houses.

        Its a corrupt system. Property owners aren’t tenants of the government, yet that’s what the property tax makes them.

      • LibertyFargo

        Local sales tax is one. And perhaps mils for schools… But that is different from a local govt who gets to decide how much my home is worth AND set the rates at which the value of that house will be taxed.

    • SusanBeehler

      As a former city council man in Bowman is quoted, “It’s a very complex thing,”

    • Rob

      What id like to see is for the legislature to tell locals they’re on their own, and then vote to eliminate income taxes.

      The cost in revenues wouldn’t be far off what Dalrymple is proposing.

  • LibertyFargo

    “To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” – Thomas Jefferson

  • SusanBeehler

    It is property tax fraud.

  • tony_o2

    And Measure 2 wouldn’t have done a thing to address this out of control local spending. It possibly could have made it even worse since the taxpayers wouldn’t have seen their taxes go up XX% each year. If we want to fix the out of control property taxes, we need to fix our out of control local spending.

    • Rob

      The measure 2 debate is over. The economic development cronies won.

      So, since keeping it local is what they want, let the legislature tell the locals that property taxes are their problem and then vote to eliminate the income tax.

      • tony_o2

        Measure 2 itself may be over, but we are still talking about the problem that exists when the State gives the locals money to “buy down” property taxes. And that problem is that the locals just spend the money without taking a second look at their spending problem.

        I’d be fine with eliminating the buy-downs and telling the locals that they need to come up with the money themselves, or fix their own spending problem.

        What is Empower The Taxpayer doing at the local level to fix property taxes? Are they organizing locals to go to local meetings to complain about property taxes and spending?

  • sbark

    That’ll teach the citizenry to even let an idea such as Measure 2 be proposed, let alone get to a vote stage………but with plausible deniability at all levels.

  • Stuart

    It’s interesting to see both State and Local Goverments in action. Technique is part of their creative juices. How do we get more revenue? I once complained to Linda Coates about the city assessing the city property when ever they felt it necessary to build something else, that also needed more labor to up keep and was seldom used. She replied that I could find a way to sell my house for more than it was worth to make up the difference.

    Do any of you recall the islands on Broadway? What a great novel idea! Make less parking available and yet expect the down town to survive. Who’s running the nut house any way?

  • ndoldman

    Looks like the Higher Ed system needs more money to throw down drain, it can’t seem to get enough. It is time to ween the fatted calf and see the schools become self supporting, Ironic how they try to train students for life, but have the hand out to the tax payer.

  • Thresherman

    Obviously the Keep It Local crowd knew that massive increases were in the works and Measure 2 would have derailed that. I wonder how the vote would have went if it was widely known how much taxes were going to increase if it was voted down. I have 2 parcels of farmland in Cavalier County that been subject to about a 25% increase on property taxes. Undoubtedly it is reasoned that this is due to the recent increase in value of farmland, but should the bottom fall out and values return to what they were a few years ago, you know that the tax rate is not going to fall along with it.