Few attend forum here: Panelists speak on effects of Measure 2 in various areasAbout 15 people attended Monday’s information session about Measure 2, which would amend the North Dakota Constitution to eliminate property taxes statewide.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
About 15 people attended Monday’s information session about Measure 2, which would amend the North Dakota Constitution to eliminate property taxes statewide.
Jamestown College President Bob Badal moderated the community forum at the Reiland Fine Arts Center, which mainly focused on the effects Measure 2 would have on local governments.
“It’s a matter of people getting educated on a subject, and if somebody’s got questions, we’ve got to be able to answer them, and let’s answer them with truth,” said Larry Knoblich, chairman of the Jamestown Parks and Recreation Commission.
Knoblich, one of the people on the six-person panel, encouraged people to vote no on Measure 2, calling taxes the cost of democracy.
“There is no easy out. Somebody’s going to pay for that,” Knoblich said.
Panelist Greg Allen, president of the Jamestown Public School Board, expressed concern about what Measure 2 could do to schools.
The public votes on Measure 2 on June 12, but school budgets are due in July, meaning schools have had to make contingency plans in case the measure passes.
Allen said Measure 2 would leave Jamestown Public Schools short more than $5 million in funding.
“There hasn’t been a great deal of thought put into the ramifications of the measure if it passes,” said Mark Klose, chairman of the Stutsman County Commission, another panelist.
Klose said he was concerned about the uncertainty behind Measure 2’s effects, and even on questions as to where the replacement money for property taxes would come from — which could be income taxes, sales taxes, tobacco taxes or other taxes.
Measure 2 states property tax revenue would have to be replaced from proceeds of state sales taxes, individual and corporate income taxes, oil and gas production and extraction taxes, tobacco taxes, lottery revenues, financial institutions taxes, and other state resources.
It does not specify which specific taxes on that list would be used, nor in what proportions, to replace the property tax revenue.
Panelist Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., said Measure 2 would encourage people from out of state to purchase property in North Dakota for occasional recreational use and then sit on it.
Owners would have “less incentive to rent it out for ag production or otherwise stimulate the local economy,” Ova said.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there who think property taxes are something evil,” said Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen, adding property taxes are calculated based on assessed value, which is required to be within 90 to 100 percent of sales value.
Andersen also noted the majority of the city’s budget goes to fund police and fire protection, which is often reflected in people’s insurance rates, so tying the tax to property makes sense.
North Dakota Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, also a panelist, said he had three major concerns about Measure 2 — loss of local control, tax shift and the uncertainty it creates.
Fong said the North Dakota Legislature would have to add days to its session in order to fund 2,100 political subdivisions, and said that the measure requires local governments to be “fully and properly funded,” which are discretionary words.
The measure would also mean revenue from property taxes has to be replaced by means of raising other taxes, Fong said.
“If we were to shift that entire burden onto income tax, we’d have to raise that individual income tax 280 percent, 720 percent for corporate. Sales tax, we’d have to double it,” Fong said. “Of course the Legislature wouldn’t put all that burden into all one tax.”
Instead, it would likely be spread out over multiple existing taxes — but Measure 2 doesn’t state which ones or in what proportions.
“This is the most important vote that North Dakotans will cast this election season,” Fong said.
No one at the session spoke in favor of Measure 2.
“Give some thought as to what we can do — what all your entities can do — to make (property) tax more equitable, and come up with a plan to address some of the issues that are out there,” said Clarice Liechty, an audience member who said she had not yet decided how to vote on Measure 2.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org