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Governor names 14-member property tax task force

BISMARCK – North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Tuesday announced the creation of a 14-member Task Force on Property Tax Reform, saying the state can simplify its property tax system, provide more transparency in the budgeting of local governments and identify “meaningful, long-term savings” for taxpayers.

“Now that we have provided historic tax relief, it’s time to take the next step and achieve lasting property tax reform,” Dalrymple said.

The state has provided about $2.4 billion in tax relief since 2009, with roughly $1.5 billion of that coming through reductions in local property taxes, according to the governor’s office.

However, some cities, counties and other local taxing authorities have continued to collect more in property tax revenue because rising property valuations have outpaced the state support.  That’s led to “a lot of questions” from residents about how the property tax system works and whether relief is really being delivered, Dalrymple said.

Dalrymple is creating the task force by executive order, directing its members to research and analyze all mill levies authorized by political subdivisions other than school districts, as well as the processes they use to assess and collect property taxes to fund local government services.

“We’re hopeful that we can achieve some very meaningful results,” he said.

The task force will hold its first meeting Friday. Dalrymple said he wants the task force to complete its work in time to forward its research and recommendations to the Legislature when it convenes in January 2015.

Dalrymple will serve as chairman of the task force. Its other members are:

- Blaine DesLauriers, a Minot homeowner

- Hal Gershman, a Grand Forks commercial property owner and City Council member

- Michael Montplaisir, Cass County auditor

- Loren DeWitz of Bismarck, a property tax payer representing agricultural producers

- Bill Wocken, Bismarck city manager

- Ryan Rauschenberger, North Dakota’s deputy tax commissioner.  Rauschenberger has been appointed to serve the remaining one year of Commissioner Cory Fong’s term when Fong leaves for the private sector at the end of this year.

- Linda Svihovec, McKenzie County auditor

- Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee

- Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo, chairman of the House Finance and Taxation Committee

Non-voting members of the task force are:

- James Kramer, director of Dickinson Parks and Recreation and representative for the North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association

- Mark Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties

- Jon Godfread, vice president of government affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber

- Blake Crosby, representing the North Dakota League of Cities

Dalrymple said the task force will identify opportunities to simplify, consolidate or eliminate unnecessary and duplicative taxes; replace taxing authorities with user-based fee authorities; replace tax levies with other possible revenue sources, such as state funding; and improve the timelines and processes used by local political subdivisions to assess and finalize property valuations and develop operating budgets.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.