The City of Bismarck conducts a number of improvement projects every year. Some projects bring city services to new areas of the city. Other projects make repairs in older sections of Bismarck. All of this work is done with the help of Special Assessments.
Special assessments on private property pay for public improvements that benefit that property. Improvements that would bring special assessments fall under four main categories:
1) storm sewer,
2) sewer and water,
3) paving and street lights, and
4) sidewalk, curb and gutter.
When the City Engineering Department decides work needs to be done, they create a special assessment district which includes all property the city judges will benefit from the improvement project. The Board of City Commissioners approves each special assessment district. The district is then published in the city’s official newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune, two times over a two-week period.
Property owners have the right to protest the district when the improvements are not health-related, like those involving sewer and water. If it’s not a health-related improvement and 51 percent of the owners in the district protest the work, the project is cancelled.
Once the district is approved, the City Engineering Department takes bids on the project. When the project is completed, the construction costs are assessed against the benefiting property on ratios that depend on the work being done:
1) storm sewer –assessed based on the square feet of the lot,
2) sewer and water – this work is usually prepaid by the company or person developing new lots,
3) paving and street lights – assessed on per-lot basis, and
4) sidewalk, curb and gutter – based on the actual amount of sideway, curb and gutter.
Once the assessments are made on properties, they are published in the newspaper twice during a two week period. Property owners have the right to protest before the Special Assessment Commission, a three member board appointed by the City Commissioners. The Special Assessment Commission’s job is to make sure the assessments are spread fairly among properties, not whether the work should be done. If the property owner’s protest is unsuccessful, the owner may appeal that decision to the City Commission.
Special Assessments may be paid in full, or they will be billed to the property owner in installments. The installments will be spread over seven to 15 years, depending on the type of improvement. Notice of the installment due each year is sent to property owners on the property tax notices and the installment is paid along with property taxes through the Burleigh County Auditors Office. Partial payment is now accepted on special assessments or owners may pay off the full balance at the Special Assessments Office, 3rd floor, City/County Building, 221 N. 5th Street.