The Bismarck City Commission during the Feb. 28 meeting took a new position on several bills currently being heard in the legislature that affect cities. The Bismarck City Commission voted to oppose House Bill 1182, House Bill 2166 and upheld their prior decision to oppose House Bill 1361.
House Bill 1182 relates to renaissance zone tax credits and exemptions. Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Scott Meske, conveyed the Chamber’s position on HB 1182 to the commission. “There are fifty-six communities that have used the renaissance zone tool in North Dakota for various reasons – those numbers, those jobs, those companies have thrived because of that tool. You can’t deny the data. The data is on the side of our communities,” said Meske. “From a business standpoint, I’d rather not have state government telling our local elected officials what they can or cannot do. Those are mandates. This a toolbox for communities for economic development. These are policy issues. The amount of money we’re talking about - tax dollars are minimal. It’s more of a policy statement.”
Brian Ritter, President, Bismarck-Mandan Development Association (BMDA) also spoke to HB 1182 bill. “BMDA often finds themselves competing for projects utilizing these tools. We are competing against communities that will give away free land and utilize property tax exemptions for up to twenty years. These are facts. We have lost projects to communities who are willing to go to these lengths,” said Ritter. “This is something that this Board and this community have not done. They’ve used these tools in a responsible way. As a practitioner, these are useful tools. We are competing with other communities who are willing to use them and to go above and beyond what we have done here. It is responsible to do what this commission has done in the past, and to review them.”
Senate Bill 2166 relates to approval of property tax incentives granted by a city and evaluation of economic development tax incentives; to provide for a legislative management study and to provide an effective date. “This bill would ask cities to reach out to political subdivisions. It would allow the opportunity for them to negotiate the percent of property tax incentives. Significantly different than what we are able to do today,” said Mayor Mike Seminary. “If the legislature takes these tools away from cities, Bismarck will be at a particular disadvantage.”
House Bill 1361 relates to limitations of property tax levies by taxing districts without voter approval, the determination of school district state aid payments to provide an effective date and an expiration date. The Bismarck City Commission opposed the bill. “The bill with some exceptions, prohibits a property tax increase of more than 3% (in dollars) over the previous year limiting the flexibility as a local governing body to make adjustments to budgets based on local needs,” said Keith Hunke, Bismarck City Administrator.