A taxing conundrumI stood in my living room last week holding the city assessor’s letter in my hand, mouth agape. The notice informed me that the true and full value of my property — a half lot with a 110-year-old home in an aging Dickinson neighborhood — was increasing. The difference: $17,600.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
I stood in my living room last week holding the city assessor’s letter in my hand, mouth agape. The notice informed me that the true and full value of my property — a half lot with a 110-year-old home in an aging Dickinson neighborhood — was increasing. The difference: $17,600.
I was certain there had been a mistake. I visited the assessor’s website, looked up my parcel and reviewed the records. Over the past 10 years, my property’s value had increased $30,000. Never had an increase been more than $5,000 in a year.
Suddenly, I was facing a one-year increase of more than 50 percent of the 10-year increase. What was going on?
I called the assessor’s office this week. City Assessor Joe Hirschfeld told me that his numbers were based on market activity and the market is booming in Dickinson. In the neighborhoods around me, few homes were selling for less than $100,000.
That’s not mentioning that land isn’t as plentiful as it once was in Dickinson. Much of the increase, he informed me, was in the value of the land.
My knee-jerk reaction: To hell with this assessment. I’m voting yes on Measure 2.
Measure 2 calls for the elimination of property taxes in North Dakota. It does this by amending the state’s constitution to prohibit local governing bodies from collecting the tax. As a result, state funding to local governments will be increased to cover the difference.
If Measure 2 were to pass, it would mean a huge tax break for me. If it doesn’t and my property taxes increase nearly $400 this year, will I see a correlating increase in city services? Can I expect my police department to show up at a scene faster? My fire department to have better equipment? Or will I simply be paying for City Administrator Shawn Kessel’s raise?
Snide questions aside, this is the choice faced by Dickinson homeowners. We’re charged with casting a vote on a measure that could make an entire tax bill disappear. Opponents will ask us at what cost. Schools? Police departments? City services?
I am weeks — if not days — from welcoming a baby boy into this world. Four hundred dollars a year goes a long way when raising an infant; it buys a lot of diapers. That might be incentive enough for me to consider the benefits of Measure 2 while ignoring the consequences, but that wouldn’t be the sensible thing to do. It’s time to educate ourselves, to weigh the pros and cons, and to do our homework.
It is without a doubt a taxing conundrum. If my Plan A was to vote yes on Measure 2, Plan B might be to scrape the paint from my siding and toss a rusty transmission in the front yard. I doubt my neighbors will like that very much, but it might be an effective way to cut a little out of the five-digit increase in property value. (It should be noted that I’m a first-time home buyer and as such, I’m in an agreement with the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency that prevents me from selling the home within an eight-year period without incurring a penalty on the profits.)
Knowing I would never actually go through with Plan B, I guess I can always keep my fingers crossed that North Dakota will follow Alaska’s example and begin offering residents a kick-back from the oil activity. That would surely help offset the increasing costs of my unimproved dwelling, a clear result of oil activity in the state, and help ensure that local governing bodies in need of property tax funding get the money they need.
I mean the state government is looking out for its residents’ best interests, right?
Byrd is copy editor at The Dickinson Press.