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Published September 09, 2013, 08:30 PM

Grand Forks County plans tax cut

The Grand Forks County Commission will consider a 2014 preliminary budget Tuesday that trims property taxes, even with increases in property valuations.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

The Grand Forks County Commission will consider a 2014 preliminary budget Tuesday that trims property taxes, even with increases in property valuations.

Under the proposed budget, the county’s residential property taxes would decrease by $61.94 for each $100,000 of assessed valuation, according to Debbie Nelson, county finance and tax director. Meanwhile, taxes on agricultural land would drop by $49.54 per $100,000.

The estimates include a 12 percent tax credit the North Dakota Legislature approved this past spring.

“We’re taking the full 12 percent from the state and we’re going to be level,” Commissioner John Schmisek said Monday at a meeting of the County Board’s administrative services committee, which unanimously recommended the proposed budget.

Property valuations rose by 6.4 percent for 2013 in Grand Forks County.

The County Board meets at 4 p.m. on the Sixth Floor of the County Office Building, 151 S. 4th St.

The Legislature this year approved two measures that will affect local property taxes.

Senate Bill 2036 provides a 12 percent credit against property taxes throughout the state. The state, in turn, makes up the difference.

Another bill, House Bill 1013, provides a 50-mill state buydown of school district property taxes. One mill is equal to one-10th of a penny and is used to determine property taxes.

However, it’s still too early to tell what property taxes will be overall in the county, because other taxing entities still are working on budgets. Those entities include the city of Grand Forks, Grand Forks School District, Grand Forks Park Board, Garrison Diversion, and Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District.

The school district conducted a budget meeting Monday night.

Changing bills

If all of those taxing entities approve budgets as they were proposed as of last week, residents within the city of Grand Forks would have a total property tax responsibility of $1,786.88 on a residential property valued at $100,000 last year, or $106,400 this year, including the 6.4-percent valuation increase, according to Nelson.

However, that total would be reduced by 12 percent, or $263.99, to reflect the state tax credit. So, the ultimate tax bill would be $1,572.46, compared with $1,836.45 on a house valued at $100,000 in Grand Forks city.

Owners of agricultural land would see the county portion of their tax bill to be $595.35 per $100,000, compared with $573.45 in 2012 because of rising land valuations.

However, the state is paying 12 percent, or $71.44 of that total, bringing the taxpayer responsibility down to $523.91, according to Nelson.

Grand Forks County’s proposed budget shows a decrease of 7.63 mills, from 126.46 to 118.83.

“I think it’s exciting that we’re approving a budget that passes on the full tax savings approved by the state,” Commissioner Cynthia Pic said.

The budget includes a wage increase of 2.5 percent for county employees, as well as a 4 percent raise for elected officials.

In addition, the budget includes 1.37-mill increase for the county social services department.

The County Board earlier approved an increase of as many as 12 employees for the department, although only five are expected to be hired over the next several months, according to Nelson. The staff increases are necessary to accommodate increased demand in programs mandated by the federal and state governments.