Bismarck School Board Votes 3-2 In Favor Of Extending Renaissance Zone Program School Board narrowly rejects following the Burleigh County Commission

      Web Version   Preferences   Unsubscribe  
North Dakota Watchdog Network Logo

Bismarck School Board Votes 3-2 In Favor Of Extending Renaissance Zone Program

School Board narrowly rejects following the Burleigh County Commission's leadership on issue. Public input is now needed to ensure the State Department of Commerce follows its own long-standing policies and not bend their own rules for Bismarck.

April 18th, 2016

Last night, the Bismarck School Board voted in favor of supporting the City of Bismarck's efforts to renew the Renaissance Zone tax incentive (subsidy) program.

By a vote of 3-2, with members Scott Halverson and Heidi Delorme dissenting, the board rejected the suggestion that the vote was an opportunity to force itself into the city's policy making process with regards to city decisions that affect school district revenues.

From the Bismarck Tribune:

School board member Heide Delorme said she heard from many people concerned that the zone leads to higher taxes. That becomes particularly problematic in the future if the school district needs to raise more money to fund its programs, she said.

“I am elected by the taxpayers, and I feel I need to vote how they want me to vote,” she said.

She and board member Scott Halvorson voted to oppose a letter of support.

Halvorson also touched on the money crunch facing the school district right now.

“We have got a lot of things we are going to be asking the taxpayers. We are hoping we can do whatever we need to do without increasing taxes,” he said. “It may not be a possibility.”

(Be sure to keep that warning about tax increases from Halverson in mind as it almost certainly to become an issue going forward.)

All school board members had received material and the following scripted questions to ask the city's representatives:

1. How many the of 100+ properties benefited by the program were in the city's TIF District(s)?

2. How much direct property tax revenue have these properties generated for the Bismarck School District?

3. Will the city ensure that pending expansions of the Renaissance Zone with be outside of the TIF Districts(s), so that the School District can benefit from the increased property tax revenues rather than those funds being diverted to TIF?

4. Will the city guarantee to the Bismarck School Board that it will not seek a change in state law to allow for an extension and renewal of the current TIF District(s), set to expire in 2026?

5. Is the city willing it create a requirement on itself to get expressed approval from the School District when it comes to tax exemptions affecting School District revenue?

These questions were not asked of the city, as it was clear the votes in favor of the city were pre-determined and now about to be changed with public input.

Bismarck School Dollars Diverted to TIF

School Board members in favor of supporting the city's program also were not interested in looking at the amount of tax revenue diverted from the school district to the Bismarck TIF District (Tax Increment Financing).

There was acknowledgement by the city about the fact that most Renaissance Zone properties are in teh TIF District. The school board members favoring the city did not ask to find out just how much was going to TIF instead of the school district.

Unfortunately, the school board could not be persuaded to take the time to work with the city to craft polices that would be better for the school district (and minimize the need for possible tax increases that school board member Scott Halverson mentioned.)

State Must Keep Policies In Place

As has been previously reported, the process now moves to the State Department of Commerce for final approval.

The Bismarck Tribune has the state official in charge of the Renaissance Zone Program on the record from last week saying that both county and school approval are needed:

Rikki Roehrich, program administrator for the Renaissance Zone with the state Commerce Department, said Tuesday that the letter of support from the county and the school district weigh heavily into the agency’s decision on whether a program continues.

“It has been a requirement since the program’s inception. It would not be considered a viable extension plan without the letter of support and would automatically be denied,” said Roehrich, adding that this is the first time the issue has come up as not many cities have seen their 15-year Renaissance zones expire.

Pressure must now be put on the State Commerce Department to ensure their own long-standing policies are followed. There should be no special treatment for the City of Bismarck, despite the Bismarck Tribune Editorial Board's call for the state department to bend its own rules.

There are two people in the State Commerce Department that need to hear from those in Bismarck and Burleigh County:

Rikki Roehrich (Renaissance Zone Program Administrator) -

Al Anderson (Commissioner of the Department of Commerce) -

These two individuals need to hear from taxpayers in Bismarck that do not want the rules to be bent for the City of Bismarck.

Also, be sure to thank Bismarck School Board Members Scott Halverson and Heidi Delorme for their votes standing up for the taxpayers; as well as voicing your opinion with the other three members. Their contact info can be found here.

The fight is not over, and as long as existing rules and policies are followed, there will still be input possible from taxpayers and from the County Commission.


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

Paypal Button