The cost of battling flooding could keep Rice Lake homeowners from sharing in the tax relief that other Ward County property owners will see when they receive their tax bills this month.
Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad said her office expects to have the statements in the mail next week.
The Rice Lake Recreation District increased its general fund levy from 6.71 mills this past year to more than 90 mills, creating the highest consolidated property-tax levy in the county at 276.11 mills. Minot's consolidated levy is 249.16 mills for city, county, state, school and park district.
Linda Anderson, secretary of the Rice Lake Board, said costs have been piling up while the lake refuses to go down.
"We have had to raise both of our roads. We just did this last month, and it's very, very expensive," she said. "Our big job is to protect our sewer system, and that cost us a lot of money last year. Our job is to protect the infrastructure. Our job is not to protect homes necessarily."
There are about 169 lots at Rice Lake, and all but 10 to 15 lots have a structure, she said. About 40 homeowners are year-round lake residents.
Homeowners individually have incurred costs in diking, raising houses and otherwise trying to protect their homes from the lake. This is in addition to regular special assessments for infrastructure maintenance and now a general-fund levy that can be expected to add $125 on every $100,000 worth of property, even with the state's property-tax relief.
Steve Zaun, Rice Lake Board president, said the higher taxes cover debts that will gradually disappear over the next five years.
The tax situation is generally much more rosy for other homeowners in the county.
In Minot, the consolidated property tax is down 24 percent before the 12 percent across-the-board reduction approved by the 2013 Legislature. The decline is largely due to a 42 percent decrease in the school tax that is resulting from increased state participation in education costs.
Before state tax relief, the county levy already is down nearly 12 percent in Minot. The tax for Minot Park District is lower by about 11 percent, and the city's tax is down nearly 10 percent.
Higher property values and increased development have helped drive levies down. Taxable valuations between 2012 and 2013 are up 24 percent in Ward County, 27 percent in the Minot school district and 29 percent in the city of Minot.
The property-tax bill is about $1,845 for a typical Minot city homeowner with a house assessed at the 2013 median of $187,000 and located in the Minot School District. That figure includes nearly $252 in savings due to the 12 percent state reduction. The rounded breakdown is: school, $607; city, $563; county, $459; Minot Park District, $209; and State Medical Center, $7.
That compares with last year's tax bill of $2,480 for a typical city homeowner with a house assessed at the 2012 median of $168,000 in the Minot School District. The average home assessment increase in Minot was 13 percent, but the amount varies by type of property.
Residents of other Ward County communities will see similar savings over last year. The savings per $100,000 of home value in the larger towns comes to: Berthold, $276; Burlington, $386; Kenmare, $205; Sawyer, $278; and Surrey, $387.
Including the 12 percent state relief, the tax in the Nedrose School District is down about $130 per $100,000 of home value, or about 27 percent. The district is located between Minot and Surrey and includes portions of those cities. The South Prairie School District taxes are down about $129 per $100,000 of home value or nearly 24 percent. South Prairie is located south of Minot and includes a portion of the city of Minot.
The consolidated tax for a Minot city resident in the Nedrose School District is $1,018 per $100,000 of home value. This compares to $1,073 in the South Prairie District and $986 in the Minot School District.
Rural residents will be getting a tax break as well. Township mill levies vary, with some going up and others down, but the overall consolidated levies in the townships will be lower.
The highest levy is in Foxholm Township, in the Des Lacs fire department and school district, where the consolidated tax on a quarter of land assessed at the county average comes to $719 after the property-tax relief. At the low end, residents of Cameron Township served by the Douglas Fire Department and Garrison school district will pay about $525 a quarter.
The figures are based on agricultural land assessments going up an average of about 7 percent over last year.
Taxpayers will see the state tax relief from the past three years itemized on their statements. By law, the statements will list the savings from the 12 percent reduction and other taxes saved this year and in each of the previous two years from the state's property-tax relief measures implemented by reducing school mill levies.
The county auditor's office calculated the effect of three years of property-tax relief for each of about 38,000 parcels for which the county issues tax statements.
"It should be very clear," Smestad said of the line items. However, she noted that any special assessments are in addition to the property tax and are not subject to the 12 percent state reduction.
Taxpayers can get an additional 5 percent reduction in their taxes by paying before Feb. 15.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple recently formed a task force to study property-tax reform that can provide relief without the need for the Legislature to act each session.
"We have made some great progress in terms of property-tax relief, but we still feel there's more that can be done in improving the actual property-tax system itself," Dalrymple said last week.
The task force will look at the variations in levies across taxing districts and determine whether consolidation can occur within the 186 different taxing authorities.
There may be alternative ways to fund programs other than property tax, said Ryan Rauschenberger, the state's newly appointed tax commissioner. Some taxing authorities already use alternative methods, such as user fees, and the committee will investigate whether those methods might be appropriate for more taxing authorities, he said.