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Task force proposal would require revisiting voter-approved levies every 10 years

BISMARCK – North Dakota residents would get to revisit voter-approved property tax levies 10 years after they take effect, under a proposal working its way through the governor’s Task Force on Property Tax Reform.

The change would give county and city residents an automatic “anniversary vote” to weigh in on voter-approved levies that otherwise would be in effect for perpetuity.

“You wouldn’t have to work up a referral effort to know that it would be revisited,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said during Monday’s task force meeting at the Capitol.

Dalrymple said the 14-member task force he created by executive order in December has reached the point where Legislative Council lawyers need to know what members want to see in draft bills for the 2015 Legislature to consider.

“We just need to get something on paper,” he said.

Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said the task force has reviewed all 186 mill levies authorized under state law, looking at ways to consolidate some levies, find alternate funding sources for others and repeal unused levy authorities.

Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, a task force member and chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, said the goal of the 10-year anniversary vote is to give residents more control over their tax burden. He said he supports the proposal and expects a lot of debate on the details.

“That’s a topic I guarantee you will be fine-tuned all the way until the end of the (legislative) session,” he said.

Under the proposal, levies put to voters would have to contain a “time-certain” element requiring a vote to reauthorize the levy before its 10-year anniversary. Levies that are already in place would also would be covered by the anniversary vote.

The vote would have to happen during a general election in the levy’s eighth year to give county officials time to adjust their budgets depending on the vote’s outcome. For existing levies, the vote would have to come during a general election in the eighth year after the law takes effect, should it pass the Legislature.

Task force members couldn’t agree Monday on whether voter-approved levies should have a term limit. During a discussion about county road levies, Dalrymple said if voters wanted to approve a 10-mill levy for 15 years, he wouldn’t have a problem with it, but if it’s for 20 to 30 years, “I just think that’s not necessary.”

Mark Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Association of Counties and a non-voting member of the task force, voiced his opposition to term limits for road levies, saying voters should decide how they want their county’s road program to go forward.

Rauschenberger said the task force will likely continue to meet through the summer as it refines draft legislation for the 2015 session, which begins Jan. 6.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.