Wednesday, June 13, 2018

VIDEO: Update Provided on Social Service Redesign Project

North Dakota Department of Human Services Executive Director, Chris Jones, provided a half hour update on the Social Services Redesign project with an audience of county social
services staff from Burleigh and Morton Counties. 

As the idea was to do this presentation for county social services staff and
county officials across the state, the presentation and the question and answer
session that followed were recorded and are now available as a You Tube
video.  With the Q&A it is 52 minutes long, but is well worth the time to gain a better understanding of what is being explored and the progress that has been made.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Majority of ND Counties Lowering Property Taxes According to ND Tax Dept. Report

A large majority of counties are collecting less from taxpayers in 2018. That was the statement NDACo’s Government Affairs Specialist, Donnell Preskey, provided to the interim Taxation Committee during their recent meeting. The committee is studying the property tax system. They dedicated several hours to take an in-depth look at how property taxes have increased or decreased since 2015.

“The volume of counties that are showing double digit decreases in levies should be reassuring to legislators that our counties are good stewards of taxpayer’s dollars,” said Preskey. “The state funds used to relieve the local tax burden of paying for county social services had a positive impact on taxpayers across the state.”

The North Dakota Tax Department provided a report to committee members that highlighted property tax mill levy information for tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017 for counties, cities, schools and parks. The information excluded new growth. Less than half of the 50 largest cities, schools and park districts in the state reduced property taxes.

Preskey said, “Forty-seven of the 53 counties did what you, the legislature, expected of them, lowering levies which decreased what they collected from taxpayers in 2017.”

NDACo was asked to provide information on counties who had the most dramatic increases or decreases in property tax collections. It is evident that each county has a unique mix of revenues that vary from year to year, and their ability to manage those reserves can be impacted greatly by a natural disaster, a rare facility construction, or, in a small county, something as minor as a couple lengthy incarcerations. Clearly, the volatility of energy revenues for western counties and the impact of state aid for the smaller counties are the largest and most commonly cited factors for counties that are outliers either to the positive or negative.  Click here to view NDACo analysis of county "outliers"


NDACo was also asked to provide information to the committee regarding counties use of social media. This request was in response to a prior committee discussion suggesting a bill be drafted to “require political subdivisions that have a Facebook page to post on the Facebook page any assessment or budget notices required to be published in the newspaper. This would be in addition to the requirement to publish notices in the newspaper.”

Preskey acknowledged the value of using social media in communicating with citizens but recognized how singling out one social media platform and naming it in code could be dangerous with how fast the social media world and applications are changing.


In addition, while 47 of our 53 counties have a Facebook page, these pages are managed by various county departments. For example, many counties have an emergency management Facebook page or a sheriff’s department page, but not a general county Facebook page.  In some cases, counties have multiple Facebook pages for specific departments.  Click here to see a list of counties social media platforms.


“We would oppose such a proposal as a requirement. More than likely, if a county has a Facebook page, they are using it already as a resource to reach their citizens. There is no need to make this a mandate,” Preskey testified.


The interim Judiciary Committee is studying notice requirements with the intent of reducing some of the notices, this proposal would be a move in the opposite direction. NDACo provided that committee with a list of 142 various notices, documents and listings which counties are required to publish as mandated by state law and identified five areas worth review.  Chairman Hogue has drafted a bill that would eliminate some notice requirements or allow for them to be completed in another manner such as posted on county websites. The committee reviewed the bill draft in April but did not take action.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

NDDOT Exploring Fee Increases

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) announced it will be proposing an increase in driver’s license and motor vehicle fees. Deputy Director Mark Nelson shared with members of the Interim Government Finance committee that the NDDOT has been directed by Governor Doug Burgum to move forward on a proposal for the 2019 Legislative Session.

Fees for driver’s licenses and vehicle registration have not been changed for numerous years. The driver’s license fees are $15 for 6 years, a fee that has stayed static since 1987. The registration fees were last adjusted in 2005. The fees are set by legislative approval. Adjustments to the fees have been discussed in past years, however, Nelson says prior Executive Branches never felt the time was right to make an increase.

The driver’s license and registration fees at their current level are costing the state $2.45 million a year. The NDDOT presented examples of how the fees can be adjusted to allow for the fees to be revenue neutral. For example, a $26 increase for a Class D license (the most popular license) would cover the cost to break even. This would be a total cost of $41 every six years.  

The fees generated through driver’s license operations are deposited into the State Highway Fund; accordingly for every dollar of costs incurred in excess of revenues generated, there is one dollar less that is available to spend on transportation by NDDOT.

In addition, the costs to cover the Motor Vehicle Division are far greater than the revenue. The state is $11 million away from breaking even every year. To adjust the registration fees so that they are revenue neutral, a $10 increase would be necessary.

Every dollar of cost incurred by Motor Vehicle is one dollar that does not go into the Highway Tax Distribution Fund and is therefore not available to fund transportation. The chart shows Highway Distribution Fund Allocations with the numbers in red illustrating how each area loses funding to cover costs totaling $11 million per year next biennium.

As you can see by the chart, if a proposal to adjust fees so that the costs for motor vehicle revenue neutral, counties could see an increase of $2.4 million in transportation funds.