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Property tax relief on Legislature’s radar

Property-tax payers could get some relief from the North Dakota Legislature this session, although it is uncertain yet what that relief might look like.

Minot legislators at a Minot Area Chamber EDC virtual forum today talked about what appears to be in the pipeline in the way of property-tax relief.

“There’s some discussion about having the state pay the full amount for the school portion of the tax,” Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, said. “There’s so many different varieties of options. I’ve heard some that want to do further exemptions for various groups or properties, and generally when you do an exemption of some then, of course, that gets picked up by everybody else, so I don’t know how well those would be received, but anything we would do that would replace the funds for the education portion would be direct reduction on property tax.”

He said discussion regarding education funding and property tax relief are in an early stage.

However, he added, “We are hearing from citizens through email about property tax so it is always a topic during session, and I am sure it is going to be again this session.”

“There’s a lot of desire to lower our taxes,” said Rep. Jay Fisher, R-Minot, outlining steps taken in previous sessions to reduce property taxes by having the state pick up county social service costs. The Legislature also has increased state education funding in the past to reduce the local property-tax burden.

Sen. Randy Burckhard, R-Minot, reported that Sen. Jason Heitkamp, R-Wahpeton, has a proposal to eliminate property taxes.

“He’s pretty intent on getting that bill to pass,” said Burckhard, who noted local property taxes account for $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion in revenues every biennium.

“It’s quite expensive so I don’t know how you’d replace that,” he said.

Rep. Matt Ruby, R-Minot, spoke about his bill to designate a portion of the Outdoor Heritage Fund, supported by oil taxes, to a revolving loan fund for parks and recreation districts.

“It’s a bunch of little bills like that, that can help with that property tax bill,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, also said legislators should be always looking for ways to shrink the state budget. It is particularly important to do so this year, when small businesses are suffering from the damage from COVID-19 restrictions, he said.

“We really have to look at backing off of taxing and spending in the government,” he said.

Sen. Karen Krebsbach, R-Minot, said the state’s revenue forecast this past week increased $178 million since the governor’s proposed budget was released in December. No final decisions on budgets are likely until after the March forecast, though, she said.

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