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When Valley City Assessor Sandy Hansen made an inquiry regarding homestead tax exemptions in North Dakota, she couldnâ€™t have known that she would start a chain reaction that may change how the state approaches special assessments and homestead exemptions.
A homestead exemption is a property tax reduction for the elderly and disabled. It is a sliding scale reduction that is based on income after deducting medical expenses, according to Hansen.
Currently, the homestead exemption only allows for the actual property tax. The state then places a lien on the property â€“ at 9 percent interest â€“ for the amount of any special assessments on the property.
Proposed legislation currently being considered in the Finance and Taxation Committee, would roll special assessments into the homestead exemption. The proposal would also raise the amount of income allowable for qualification for the homestead credit.
Hansen had an important role in the creation of the proposal.
When an elderly man came into her office inquiring about how he could lower his property taxes, Hansen found that he already had a homestead exemption, the tax statement he had was actually for special assessments.
According to Hansen, the man lived in an older part of town where a large amount of work had been done, and his property had been assessed for multiple projects.
It was when Hansen researched why the assessments werenâ€™t covered under the manâ€™s homestead exemption that she learned how the state handles assessments.
Curious, Hansen contacted Luella Dahme who is a property tax with the state of North Dakota who pointed out that the legislature was in session, maybe Hansen should contact her legislator.
Hansen e-mailed all three of her District 24 legislators, one of whom directed her to North Dakota Senator Jim Dotzenrod, (D-NPL) a member of the Finance and Taxation Committee.
Dotzenrod agreed with Hansen, and introduced the new legislation.
Hansen was asked last week to testify before the committee, but was unable to make the trip to Bismarck, so Dahme acted in Hansenâ€™s stead.
The Fiance and Taxation Committee has not discussed the proposal, but will likely do so this week.
Hansen encouraged citizens to contact committee members and encourage them to push the legislation through.
Members include: Senator Randall A. Buckhard (R); Senator Joe Miller (R); Senator Dave Oehike (D); Senator Connie Triplett (D-NPL) and Dotzenrod.
Legislators can be contacted through the North Dakota Legislatureâ€™s message center at (888) NDLEGIS (635-3447) or by contacting each legislator by phone or e-mail. Individual legislatorâ€™s contact information is available at www.legis.nd.gov/contact-my-legislators.
â€śThis elderly generation are the people that made North Dakota. And you canâ€™t ignore them, you have to take care of them,â€ť said Hansen.