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Montplaisir: Our office is dedicated to answering your property tax questions

Michael Montplaisir, CPA Cass County Auditor Special to The Forum

Cass County property taxpayers recently received a notice of their property taxes. I want to stress this is only an estimate of what may happen with your property taxes based on preliminary data collected as your local governments work to finalize their budgets.

The hearing is to consider budgets for next year—questions about your valuation should be taken to the tax equalization meeting held by your city, township or county.

Cass County has provided this tax notice as a way to give you, the taxpayer, a notice which is easier to understand which combines information from your local taxing jurisdictions. The notice includes a listing of when each of the taxing jurisdictions will hold their final budget hearing, where you can go to learn more or voice your opinion. The North Dakota Legislature mandated this kind of notice be sent to property owners in 2018, but Cass County decided to send the notice this year in anticipation of the requirement next year.

When you examine your notice, it's important to understand how the state of North Dakota has been and continues to provide substantial property tax relief. The state started providing property tax relief in 2009 by increasing school district funding. In 2013 they established the 12 percent property tax buy-down credit. Due to these efforts of the state to reduce the property tax burden, and the efforts of local governments, the effective tax rate in Cass County has gone from over 2 percent in 2008 to 1.18 percent today.

During the 2017 Legislative session, lawmakers discontinued the 12 percent property tax buy-down. In order to pass property tax relief to property tax owners in a more sustainable manner, the Legislature approved a two-year pilot program to pay counties for most of the direct costs to administer social service programs.

The dollars for this program will be paid to individual counties over the next two years, and in exchange, the counties are required to eliminate the property tax that was used to fund social service administration. The relief varies county by county depending on how many mills a county levies for these services.

For example, Cass County levies 10 mills for county social services. Therefore, property taxpayers this year will see less state relief compared to what they received in prior years for the property tax buy-down program.

The property tax system is a complicated one. But as always, our office is dedicated to answering any questions you have. We encourage you to reach out and to participate in your county's budget process.

Montplaisir is the Cass County Auditor.