Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ND Senate Approves Social Service Funding Bill

By a vote of 43-2 the North Dakota Senate approved SB 2206; the plan to transfer the remaining cost of county social services to the state. The bill will eliminate the 20 mills a county can levy for social services, resulting in permanent, real property tax relief.

"Local taxes should pay for local issues," Senator Brad Bekkedahl said during his Tuesday floor speech. "Since social services are federal and state mandates, the counties have little to no say in these programs.  Local property taxes should not pay for those services. It's a $250 million burden to local taxpayers we are addressing with this bill."  

This bill is the final transition of funding responsibility for social services from the counties to the state. Starting in 1997, the state started taking over social service costs for certain programs. Counties are currently responsible for the administration costs of social services. The counties are allowed to levy up to 20 mills to pay for the administration costs, which this bill eliminates. The reason this transfer makes sense is because counties have no control over social service programs which are mandated by federal and state statutes. 

Senator Bekkedahl went over highlights of the bill, "This bill has cost controls with spending set by the Legislature each session.  Social service employees will continue to be locally employed and managed by the counties.  Taxpayers will receive the same or more property tax relief for tax year 2017, with funding available by using property tax relief funds currently set aside.  It is sustainable and offers better cost containment in that it will be controlled by the Legislature and will be a formula implementation based upon actual caseloads costs, unlike the 12% buy down, which is an automatic annual cost, and provides no incentives to control local level spending."

The bill now moves to the House where it will have another hearing and be voted on by Representatives. 

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