Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary Wants State To Change Policies To Over-Rule Burleigh County April 7th, 2016 Today, the Bismarck Tribune is reporting th

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Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary Wants State To Change Policies To Over-Rule Burleigh County

April 7th, 2016

Today, the Bismarck Tribune is reporting that Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary intends to exert pressure on the North Dakota Department of Commerce in order to nullify the Burleigh County Commission's pro-taxpayer decision to not renew the City of Bismarck's Renaissance Zone program.

On March 29, the Bismarck City Commission approved extension of the program, but state Commerce Department guidelines require letters of support from the county and the Bismarck School District in submitting the application for state approval. Bismarck’s Renaissance Zone is scheduled to end May 1.


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.

Despite this fact that it has ALWAYS been a requirement to have the County's support, and that it would be automatically declined, Mayor Mike Seminary says he will put pressure (perhaps undue?) on the state to treat Bismarck differently than it has other cities in the past:

Regardless, the city will proceed with the extension request, according to Mayor Mike Seminary.

“Our interpretation is the city has to reach out to the political subdivisions. We’ll see what the state does,” said Seminary, adding there has been significant property improvements with “hundreds of jobs created and millions of dollars invested in properties” that might not have happened without a Renaissance Zone.

City Commissioner Josh Askvig is backing Mayor Seminary's plan to pressure the state to accept the city's incomplete renewal application:

Commissioner Josh Askvig said he was disappointed by the county’s refusal to support the Renaissance Zone.

“Our plan is to continue to create a vibrant downtown. We’ll finish what we submitted to the state and see what happens,” said Askvig, emphasizing that there are no plans to extend the Renaissance Zone borders.

Commission Askvig's comment about not having any plans to expand the Renaissance Zone defies the facts that the sub-committee he is a member of is already looking to do just that.

In the map below, the blocks outlined in Red are the current blocks in the Renaissance Zone - the blocks outlined in other colors are being considered as part of the expansion (which requires renewal to happen.)

Bismarck RZ

Meanwhile, Commission Parrell Grossman called into KFYR Radio yesterday afternoon to voice his disappointment with the Burleigh County Commission.

Be sure to listen to that audio.

(Note: City Commissioner Steve Marquart did vote against the extension at the city level, and was the lone dissenting vote. Commissioner Nancy Guy has not been officially put on the public record since voting in-favor of the renewal.)

It is important that the taxpayers continue to support the Burleigh County Commission with feedback on this issue. They must stand their ground and make sure the state does not change the rules on them. The rule of law, and the existing process must not be altered. There is a reason the state legislature put the Commerce Department in charge of this process. Let's hope everyone operates like usual.

(Below is the original story in case you missed it.)


Burleigh County Action Shifts Property Tax Debate Back To Local Government, Where It Belongs

The state legislature cannot fix property taxes because it does not have the final say in the policies that go into determining property taxes.

April 5th, 2016

Burleigh County Commission

For the last several legislative sessions, there has been a debate over Property Tax Relief and Property, starting in 2009. and in 2010.

Now, as the state is facing it's budget problems, and the debate over what to do about property taxes reheats - the legislature, elected officials, and taxpayers must look at what Bureigh County did as a first step in the process to reforming property taxes locally.

The legislature can throw money at the problem all it wants, but until local governments start addressing their own policy decisions when it comes to tax-giveaways (called "incentives"), tax exemptions, and other tax policies there will be no real reform.

Political Sub Funding

The state legislature for the last 8 years has been bailing out local governments, and enabling these issues to go unaddressed.

With the state's ability to continue these local government bailout programs in the balance now, the time has come for local taxpayers across the state to demand their local governments start to figure out what they can do to minimize the impact of future state spending cuts.

If local governments fail to make these moves, local taxpayers should hold their local government officials responsible for that failure - not the state legislature.

The state legislature must demand that local governments start this process as well.

The Burleigh County Commission has taken the role as Trailblazer in this process - who will follow their leadership and example?


-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

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