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Cass County accidentally sends too many tax estimates to some property owners

FARGO — Some Cass County homeowners were surprised in recent weeks when they received not one, not two, not three, but four identical property tax estimates.

County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said duplicates are not unheard of because when printers jam a print job could be restarted, but the quadruplicates puzzle him.

What's unusual is the scale of the mailings this year, which total about 60,000 properties out of 65,000 in the county.

Every year, the county sends out an estimate to property owners when the property taxes on a property are expected to increase by at least 10 percent and $3,000, giving them time to protest tax increases.

This year the county is sending an estimate for every property that pays more than $100 in property taxes because many properties will meet that criteria. It's also a trial run for next year when a state law requiring more notification goes into effect.

Montplaisir said he's only received a few phone calls from property owners and thinks the number of extra estimates that went out is pretty small. He said there's no way to know exactly because the county relies on a private firm to stuff envelopes, some of which may contain estimates for more than one property when they're all owned by one property owner.

A residential developer with many lots for sale might have 90 such estimates in an envelope, he said.

The main reason why so many properties will see higher values, he said, is because the North Dakota Legislature changed the property-tax relief formula. Instead of cutting the property tax bill 12 percent across the board and reimbursing local governments for the decreased revenue, the state is taking over funding of county social services, he said. In some counties, social services make up a big part of a property owner's tax bill, but in Cass County it amounts to just 3.5 percent, he said.

He expects most properties that have not seen a valuation change this year will see the tax bill go up 8 to 10 percent, he said.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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