Wednesday, March 15, 2017

County Officials Turn Up at Capitol for Important Hearings

There was tremendous turnout of our County Officials from across the state for two priority bill hearings Wednesday. Your presence does make a difference and we hope you had an opportunity to connect with your local legislators to solidify your positions on the legislation.

The House Finance and Tax Committee heard SB 2206 which is transitions the cost of county social services to the state. This in return will mean real, permanent tax relief to the citizens of North Dakota. The 20 mills a county has the authority to levy for social services would be eliminated. Chairman Craig Headland questioned if counties would continue to support the bill if the "hold harmless" payment was removed. This is the portion of the formula that would essentially provide for equal relief to all residents of North Dakota regardless of the social service cost in their county. The bill as it stands today would allow for all taxpayers to realize a 12% property tax savings. This would continue the same level of relief they have been seeing with the 12% property tax buy down currently in place. However, some legislators are concerned that given the current budget climate, the state may have to reduce the level of property tax relief. The committee did not take action on this bill.
Follow this link to hear testimony from today's hearing on SB 2206. Video of SB 2206 in House Tax

Also today, counties joined schools, cities, park districts and townships in opposing HB 1361. This bill says local taxing jurisdictions can not raise their taxes more than 3% in DOLLARS without a vote from it's tax payers. The main argument made during testimony surrounds the fact that this bill would limit local control of those officials elected to make budget decisions. The elected officials testified that they, as a board, do not have intentions of raising property taxes and work to decrease or at least hold even on property taxes. Many officials testified that the current process associated with notice requirements for increases and budget hearings has played a significant role in increasing transparency and holding taxing jurisdictions accountable for their budget actions. Officials brought in examples of prior taxes on properties have looked like over the course of several years. Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir pointed out that it would be nearly impossible for a political subdivision to plan and hold an election in the short time frame of the budget process. There are also implications of this bill that would effect bonding for the political subdivisions. Many officials also stated that if this bill passes, many fear those taxing jurisdictions may feel the need to increase their taxes 3% every year to avoid getting caught short of funds when a future need or emergency arises.
Listen to a portion of Morton County Commissioner Bruce Strinden's testimony here:  Video of testimony from HB 1361

We encourage our counties to email members of the House Finance and Tax Committee to encourage a Do Pass recommendation on SB 2206. We would also advise contacting Senate Finance and Tax on HB 1361 urging a Do Not Pass.

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