Mahoney: We're doing what we can to keep property taxes down
Recently, the Cass County Auditor's Office mailed property tax estimates to every owner who will pay property taxes next year, which applies to over 90 percent of property owners in the county. The City Commissioners and I have received questions and comments from owners seeing increased tax estimates for the upcoming year in Fargo.
For the past several years, the state of North Dakota provided property tax relief by paying 12 percent of an owner's taxes to lower the overall bill, an initiative that was appreciated by residents and policymakers alike. However, due to the economic difficulties experienced by the state, the Legislature eliminated this tax credit during its last session. In its place, it implemented a two-year pilot program to pay for county social services costs. This program, however, does not account for the full cost to provide these services. As a result, the local taxpayer will see an average 8.5 percent increase in their property tax to maintain services and close this funding gap.
Property values are also on the rise in Fargo and the metropolitan area. State law requires that every property be evaluated to determine its true and full market value and reflect actual sales activity. As communities experience growth and demand for housing, increases in property values are seen — a case no different in Fargo. An increase in housing value results in a more valuable asset with a larger tax bill. The alternative — falling property value — would symbolize a community in decline, which is not the case in Fargo or the metropolitan area.
While these are the main reasons some property owners will see increases, the public can be confident that local government spending remains modest. In the 2018 preliminary budget, Fargo is proposing to slightly increase the general fund budget by 0.7 percent; while cutting operating expenses by 5.6 percent. These efforts led to a lean 2018 budget and a proposed two-mill reduction for Fargo. Between the county, city, park district and school, an 11.63 mill reduction was achieved.
As elected officials, we work diligently to keep costs down and maximize each dollar invested in city services. Fargo is committed to providing excellent services to a growing community at the lowest cost possible. Ensuring that Fargo remains a safe and engaging place to live, work, and raise a family is our pursuit, every single day and in every city budget.
Mahoney is mayor of Fargo.