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Published April 03, 2012, 09:43 PM

Measure 2 Could Impact GF County Departments

Jobs, public services at stake
GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks County Commission held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss how a measure to abolish North Dakota property taxes would impact county departments.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks County Commission held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss how a measure to abolish North Dakota property taxes would impact county departments.

Some people are starting to realize their jobs in town could be at-risk if Measure 2 passes.

Besides the two that spoke up in opposition of Measure 2, no one seemed to be in favor of crossing out property taxes from the state Constitution.

"Everybody is concerned about a job," Commissioner Gary Malm said.

The last thing the commission wants to do is tell department heads the county doesn't have enough money to pay them, but with canceling property tax, it could become a reality.

"How do we pay all our people?" Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost asked.

Although the state says funding will come from elsewhere, the commission members questioned exactly from where.

"What other income do we have besides the property tax? 50 percent?" asked Malm.

"50 percent," answered commissioner Debbie Nelson.

30 percent of one half of the budget already comes from state aid and miscellaneous revenue. If Measure 2 were to pass, 80 percent of county funding would be coming from the state. Department heads worry sales tax and even license plate fees would increase drastically.

"When you squeeze the balloon in one place, it's going to inflate in another. To me that's exactly what's going to happen," Rost said.

"You sensed kind of the trepedation in there of everybody going, 'you know what's really going to happen,'" Commission chair John Schmisek said.

Besides the threat of possibly losing a job for folks who work here in town, the North Dakota Highway Department is set to lose $1.2 million if property taxes are eliminated, meaning if a blizzard hits they wouldn't have the money nor the resources to plow county roads and the 41 townships.

"Because of the way we're spread out, it's really the lifeline in this state. If you don't have a good transportation system, you're going to be in big trouble," Schmisek said.

And if roads interfere, some say it will impede public safety.

"If we don't have funding for doing that, we will suffer, the public will suffer," Rost said.

The big fear is the state economy would decline and North Dakota would no longer be known as the state with the best economy in the nation. For now, department leaders will have to stand their own ground.

"So you as all as department heads might have to get ready to testify at the state level to help defend what you're asking for as far as budgets go, because I have no clue how that's all going to work," Schmisek said.

Besides the roads being a major concern, the commission also addressed the Social Services Director on how that department would continue to provide care to low income citizens.

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