Grand Forks City Hall sent out a press release yesterday afternoon trumpeting the fact that the property tax bill will be way lower this year than last year, which is actually true, thanks to state lawmakers who boosted K-12 funding.
This we’ve all known for sometime, though not necessarily in any concrete form. The city decided to make a bid deal of it because a) the tax bills are going in the mail today and b) people are always complaining about taxes and the city wants to report some good news for a change.
We decided that it would make a nice front page story if I could get the data I needed in time.
I got started a little later on it than I wanted, but, thanks to some dedicated city and county employees, all the info came in by 5 p.m. I don’t know what it must take to find out the median value of a residential property, but the lady at the county tax office laughed when I said I wanted that data for the last five years in, oh, two hours. Still, she got it done in spite of a rather tricky computer system. I encountered the same laugh at City Hall, yet the data came in on time and some poor fellow at the assessor’s office had to stay late to do it.
The spreadsheet that I came up with is much too complex to display here and, as it’s rather late, I won’t attempt to adapt it to the blog. Click here for the awesome data entry I did, via the miracle of Google documents.
The first sheet shows you how to calculate your property tax savings. I included not only the mill levies for the cities in the county but also the townships, all 41 of them. I really hope to God I didn’t type any of the numbers wrong!
The second sheet shows the impact of cuts in the property tax rates in the 10 cities in the county, using the median property values.
I’d offer a few general observations:
- The bulk of the cuts came from school districts, which are getting more funding. The city press release gave full credit to the Legislature of that.
- Most local governments cut their mills, though the city held the line. This would have a minimal impact because property values barely rose this year so many taxpayers should pay the city about the same as last year. One anomaly I noticed was the city of Larimore, which has been jacking up its tax rates for the past several years. I don’t cover Larimore city government, so I couldn’t say why that’s happened, but it certainly bucks the trend.
- The county is responsible for most of the tax rate increases, but this isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s followed county government. Some of the county mill levies, as county commissioners have pointed out, were set by voters many years. Perhaps it’s time to see if voters should change them?