October 19th, 2015 Emmons County Gets Short End Of State’s Stick On Property Values ========== Click here to listen to the 15-minute segment with

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October 19th, 2015

Emmons County Gets Short End Of State’s Stick On Property Values


The issue revolves around the State Board of Equalization (comprised of the governor, state treasurer, state auditor, state agriculture commissioner, and the state tax commissioner) ordering to Emmons County officials to arbitrarily increase all residential land assessments by 50%, all building assessments in Hazelton by 10%, and increase all other residential building assessments by 30%. Then, after that, go on to order the county to manually reassess all property in 2016 with the expectation that it will result in even higher increases.
This was done, because the Emmons County Board of Equalization told the state “no, you do it” when initially told that local property valuations had to increase.

The State Tax Commissioner signed and dated this notice September 29th, 2015 – only 13 days before all local finalized budgets are statutorily required by law to be submitted to the county auditor.

Tax Equilization Letter

These large, round, and arbitrary increases have no basis in statistical reality – other than the opinion of the State Board of Equalization which does not think that Emmons County’s staff has done its job for many years and needs to be dictated to by the state to make huge changes.

All of this clearly violates the North Dakota Taxpayer Bill of Rights as posted on the Tax Department’s website (http://www.nd.gov/tax/genpubs/bill-of-rights.pdf) which distinctly reads:

“The assessor must notify the property owner whenever the total true and full valuation is increased more than 10 percent over the last assessment. The notice must be delivered in writing to the property owner, mailed in writing to the property owner’s last-known address, or provided to the property owner by electronic mail directed with verification of receipt to an electronic mail address at which the property owner has consented to receive notice. Delivery of the notice must be completed at least 15 days before the meeting of the local board of equalization. The notice must provide the true and full values used by the assessor to make the assessment and the dates, times, and locations of both the local and county boards of equalization meetings.”

ND Taxpayer Bill of Rights for Property Taxes

Because the Emmons County Board of Equalization refused to increase valuations, and the state declared that these valuation increases must be imposed on 2015 taxes, property taxpayers were not given proper notice of the increases.

The State Board of Equalization violated its own posted “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” with this action – and deprived every property taxpayer in Emmons County of their right to appeal before the changes go into place.

Now, the State Tax Commissioner stated on the Joel Heitkamp show on October 15th, 2015 that taxpayers will have two years to challenge these increases. This is irrelevant because they will still be required to pay the taxes, then try to come back and get refunds. The problem is – the money will already be spent on local budgets.

If this were to only affect a few taxpayers, it would not be an issue. However, since it affects the entire county, it affects everything at every level of government in the county.

Is the State Board of Equalization going to refund every taxpayer that will over-pay their property taxes because of this? No, they can’t without legislative authority to do so – which can’t come until the 2017 legislature meets – which means there will be two tax years of refunds to calculate.

The easy solution would be for the State Board of Equalization to allow Emmons County to do exactly what it allowed the City of Mandan to do – take 3 years to manually reassess all property.

Another solution would be for the state to pay property assessors from around the state to go into Emmons county and rapidly assess every property – and allow taxpayers to use the usual process next year to challenge the findings.

If neither of these moves are taken, the Emmons County Commissioners should immediately sue the state of North Dakota for being treated differently than the City of Mandan.

Furthermore, if the county implements the edict of the state, an intrepid attorney should investigate the possibility of a class action lawsuit by every property owner in Emmons County against the state of North Dakota relating to the violation of the state’s own notification laws and taxpayer protections cited on the tax department's website..


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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