Dalrymple urges Senate to return to original property tax relief planBISMARCK — After House amendments changed the makeup of the new K-12 funding formula, Gov. Jack Dalrymple is urging the Senate to go back to the original proposal.
By: TJ Jerke, Forum News Service
BISMARCK — After House amendments changed the makeup of the new K-12 funding formula, Gov. Jack Dalrymple is urging the Senate to go back to the original proposal.
Dalrymple said Tuesday House Bill 1319 provides the best option for the Legislature to provide more equitable funding to school districts and give property owners some of their money back.
“The governors office believes the school district mill levy is the best place and best way for the state to provide property tax relief,” he told a joint session of the Senate Education and Finance and Taxation Committees. “It’s a better form than any of the other measures that have been put before the Legislature thus far.”
Dalrymple told the joint committee that he was surprised the House reduced the amount of relief in the K-12 formula by about $120 million. The amendments increased the limit local authorities can tax, but as Dalrymple pointed out, the bill is intended to reduce local property taxes.
The money was shifted into another property tax relief proposal, but Dalrymple said it should be put back into the education bill.
“We can, for the first time in state history, actually talk about a true limitation on local taxing authority. That has never happened before.”
He said the Legislature has a challenge ahead to show taxpayers the actual dollar amount of relief the new formula would provide to them.
“We need to try to find a way to inform people of the amount of relief they have received,” he said.
The bill provides relief by decreasing the amount of locally assessed taxes and increasing the state’s share of K-12 education.
An amendment tacked onto the bill by the House Appropriations Committee to increase the amount school districts could tax their local property owners creates a potential problem for schools on Indian reservations.
Because the schools are on federal land, they have less property to tax. The change would mean the schools had fewer resources for funding.
The problem was caught just before the House approved the bill with a 86-3 vote, but the members couldn’t address the problem.
Duane Poitra, business manager at Belcourt Public Schools, found Belcourt School District would lose $573,484 between 2013 and 2014 if the current proposal were to pass. Fort Yates would lose $465,000 and Dunseith $294,000. Total, 11 Native American schools would lose more than $2.5 million.
“We have an inability to collect local tax,” he said about the federal land issue. “The formula calls for a deduction with the local contribution, so in our case, we are not able to do that.”
House Appropriations and Senate Education Committee members concerned about the adjustment held a news conference Monday afternoon.
Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, plans to offer an amendment to correct the issue, which he said is being addressed with the help of a bipartisan group that includes the governor’s office.