Property taxes: District 12 candidates offer opinions on property tax relief methodsEven before a measure intended to eliminate property taxes in North Dakota failed at the polls in June, property taxes had become a hot-button issue throughout the state.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Editor’s note: North Dakota Senate and House candidates from District 12 answer questions in this periodic series leading up to Election Day.
Even before a measure intended to eliminate property taxes in North Dakota failed at the polls in June, property taxes had become a hot-button issue throughout the state.
The Sun asked the two District 12 Senate candidates and the four District 12 House of Representatives candidates for the Nov. 6 general election the following question:
What method, if any, of property tax relief do you think North Dakota should implement, and why? What about renters?
Bernie Satrom: “Right now Gov. Dalrymple has a proposal for some tax reform. First of all, I would support some property tax relief. And we have little old ladies that have paid property taxes all their lives that are having to choose between buying food and medicine and paying their property tax, and some are being forced out of their homes. I’m just concerned about them being forced out of their homes because of that burden.
“Anyway, the governor, Dalrymple has a proposal that, I believe, it would be about a 50 percent reduction for the school districts, for the levies for the school districts, and it’s a significant savings. That’s not the whole thing, but for the school portion, that means several hundred dollars savings on a home. So I’m for that.
“I’m actually really concerned about tax reform, which would not only give us property tax relief, but also, I think we should look at reducing income tax and corporate income tax, so giving relief in those few areas, making this a more positive business environment, climate. And so that would be, I think, a great incentive for even more companies that want to come to North Dakota and create more jobs. So that’s part of it.
“As far as renters … my wife and I own several rental properties and the property tax relief that we’ve gotten has been a big help to keep our rents low. And so the rents and utilities and all the costs, basically, are passed through expenses that the renters pay, and when property taxes are lower, that helps keep the rents low and so it’s something that’s actually benefiting the renters right now.”
Satrom is the Republican candidate for District 12 Senate. He is the president of Maranatha Custom Churches, Inc. of Jamestown.
John Grabinger: “As far as property taxes, there’s many options that are being put on the table. I know Senator Taylor has an idea for in the committee, the taxation committee, has been reviewing the option that calls for $100,000 in property tax reduction on the homestead. Increasing the homestead tax credit has been another that Governor Dalrymple has supported.
“There’s several other options available to the Legislature when we get there. Whoever’s elected is going to have to take this up. The message was loud and clear in the primary election that something needs to be done…
“To tell you exactly which one would be best at this point would not be prudent. I need to see all the options to see which one is most prudent, to do what’s in the best interest of the state.
“As far as renters, I don’t know what’s on the table for the renters at this point. I’d be willing to look at any options that are put forth.”
Grabinger is the Democratic candidate for District 12 Senate. He is a former Jamestown City Council member and owner of Grabinger Marina of Jamestown.
N.D. House of Representatives
Alex Looysen: “As far as property tax relief, the vision I see? Personally, I see it as being an issue … people I’ve been talking to at their door say we need some property tax relief here. I think what we need to do is look for a more permanent solution to property tax relief, which is really, I don’t want to say hard to do — we’re going to have to be creative. … we don’t want to crush local control like people were saying Measure 2 would do, but at the same time, we do need to have some common sense. That says that property taxes are too high and need to be brought down.
“There have been some ideas … $75,000, $100,000 credit, that would obviously help with some property tax relief, but I’m looking at a more permanent solution so that we don’t have this recurrent problem with property taxes. ... on top of that, I don’t want to discontinue the property tax relief that the Legislature has given to North Dakota already in the form of buying down the mills.
“That’s an interesting topic, and I don’t know that it’s black and white. There’s a lot of gray in there.
“About the renters, that’s an interesting issue that you bring up too, and I guess what I would say … renters are important too, and we can’t forget about them in dealing with the whole property tax issue. A great idea would be that you tuck the property tax down on the owner of that building, and in essence, they will give it back to their renters, but whether that’ll happen is a question here. That’s why they can’t be forgotten as well.
“I think it’s going to take bipartisan support and some common-sense leadership in Bismarck to make sure that we don’t continue to have this recurring issue. I would continue the relief they’re giving already, but on top of that, I would definitely look for some permanent fixes so that we’re not always buying down the mills, but fixing it for longevity.”
Looysen is a Republican candidate for District 12 House. He is a student at Jamestown College and owns a lawn care business.
Lyle Hanson: “If I had my way, or my idea, we would increase the funding for public schools, which is about half of our property tax. So that would lower the property tax a good percentage, because most, about half, is school funding. The other half is whatever county and city and whatever (other taxation districts exist).
“So that’s what I would do. I don’t think it will happen, but that’s what I would do. That way, everybody would have property tax relief.
“Well, in a roundabout way, (renters are) paying property tax too, for rent, that’s in the amount that they pay for rent for a week or a month.”
Hanson is an incumbent Democrat candidate for District 12 House. He is a retired teacher and has served in the North Dakota House since 1979.
Ken Hall: “I think there should be more property tax relief. It was only passed, I think it was about four or six years ago, and they’ve just been funding it ever since then, the same decrease. So there’s actually money spent on it every year, but it’s not a new deal, it’s just funding the one that was passed before. But I’m in favor of more property tax relief.
“And I think a way needs to be figured out so it gets through to the people that are paying property tax. A lot of it gets absorbed by the counties or cities or whoever the taxing authority is, so it doesn’t get to where it should go.
“And as far as the renters, I guess it would be harder yet to get property tax relief to them because it would have to go through the owners somehow. I would be in favor of it, if (there were) an easy way to figure out how to do it.
“I guess if somebody had an answer or a method we’d be using it now. It’s pretty tough to do, but I think we need to work on it in the next legislative session to get it through the maze of other taxes, so it gets to the people.
“I’m also in favor of income tax relief, more income tax relief.”
Hall is a Republican candidate for District 12 House. He is retired from the federal government, including three years with the U.S. Army.
Jessica Haak: “Basically, I believe that we need to work hard for property tax reform. That was made clear by Measure 2, and bringing that attention to the voters. And I would support (efforts) to protect the homestead property tax credit, and I think we need to work to find solutions for people who live and make their home in North Dakota.
“I would support offering reductions in home assessments and tax credit for renters applied as state income tax credit.”
Haak is a Democratic candidate for District 12 House. She is the membership development coordinator at North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com