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Legislative Report: Legislative action should reduce real estate taxes

By Rep. Alon Wieland

There has been a lot of local talk recently about real estate taxes. Everyone has an opinion, right or wrong, about what the reduction in the amount of real estate taxes for 2013 will be. One hears that the reductions will be anywhere from none to over 40 percent over the previous year. The correct answer for most will be somewhere in the middle of those estimates. An examination for most of those that live in Cass County will be somewhere around 25 percent less than in 2012.

Now, not all will receive that kind of benefit. There will be those that will see a rise in the assessed value of their property. For example, if you built a new home 3 years ago, and qualified for a 2-year exemption, then the third year will automatically rise up to the full assessed value, and your taxes will go up. Likewise, if you had an addition to your home or business, that too will be reflected in your current real estate taxes.

However, the estimates for this year indicate that approximately 78 percent of the homes in West Fargo will have an assessed value at or below the previous year. Likewise, Fargo is at approximately 74 percent, and rural Cass County is at approximately 94 percent. An increase of assessed value is not always bad, particularly if you want to sell your home, because the increased assessed value usually means a higher sale value as well.

Now the 2013 Legislature passed a number of bills that should reduce your real estate taxes, providing the local subdivisions don’t raise your assessed value or the number of mills to be collected. One of those bills is tied to the school districts. The State has raised the per pupil payment from approximately $3, 900 per student to approximately $8,900 per pupil for the first year, and approximately $9,100 for the second year of the biennium. In return, the school districts are to reduce 50 mills the amount collected. That amount varies in each school district, but in the Fargo and West Fargo school districts, that is the amount reduced. In the West Fargo School District, the amount will go from 192 mills to 142 mills, a direct reduction of your real estate taxes. The Fargo School District is also reducing the full 50 mills.

Another bill that passed is the extension of the exemption of those that qualify for the elderly tax exemption. The caps were increased, and for those that apply and qualify, the reduction is based on the individual circumstance. There are income limitations, and valuation limits as well.

One more bill that passed reduces everyone’s real estate tax by 12 percent across the board to all subdivisions. That includes city, county, park districts, schools, townships. This will be in a direct payment to each county, and just reduces your taxes by an additional 12 percent.

According to the County Auditor’s office, Cass County Commissioners reduced their mill levy by .93 mills from 63.60 to 62.67. Also, according to the City of West Fargo Auditor’s office, the City Commissioners reduced their mill levy by 1.09 mills, from 90.43 mills to 89.34 mills. Other cities in Cass County may be doing the same, and all those subdivisions that held the line, or reduced their mill levies to allow tax payers to get some relief should be commended for doing so. There are rumors that some cities, school districts and maybe even counties in the state have not held the line. That will be extremely disappointing to the members of the Legislature that worked hard to give some relief, even though the state itself, does not levy any real estate taxes.

There are also rumors that measure 2, the measure that mandates the state pay all real estate taxes, will be attempted again. That would be disappointing. All properties get services for their real estate taxes. Police and fire protection, maintenance of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, are just a few of the services provided. Schools and parks are also services provided thru real estate taxes. Why shouldn’t real estate be a way to take care of a few of those services? If the state was mandated to pay all real estate taxes, and oil became outlawed in North Dakota due to fracking, it could be a disaster. There is also the thought that the Legislature would have to meet annually to handle the additional load. There would be a loss of local control, and that would provide more problems than the people of this state would want. Please be careful what you wish for

As always, The 13th District Legislators want to hear from you. You can contact them at: Senator Judy Lee, 282-6512,, Representative Kim Koppelman, 2829267,, and Representative Alon Wieland, 282-9470,