June 11, 2020

New Town school implements state mandated taxes


By Jerry W. Kram

Shifting state mandates had the New Town School Board doing some fancy financial footwork to preserve the amount of state aid it receives from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
At the board’s annual budget meeting, Superintendent Mark Bluestone explained that several years ago the North Dakota Legislature mandated that all school districts in the state must have a mill levy of at least 60 mills. Due to the funding the district receives from oil and gas revenue, the New Town school district charges some of the lowest taxes in the state.
“For years and years the state encouraged districts to keep their property taxes as low as possible because that was paid by the farmers and homeowners,” Bluestone said. “In the last few years they have gone the other way.”
School districts are also prohibited from raising their mill levy more than 12 percent in a given year, Bluestone explained. The legislature did give districts a period of time to get their rates up to the mandated level, but if they don’t make a good faith effort the state threatens to reduce a district’s state aid.
Complicating the problem is the growing value of property within the district. The mill levy is set by dividing the district’s budgeted collections by the value of the property in the district. Last year, the board increased the budgeted collections by the maximum 12 percent, but property values increased so quickly they mill levy actually fell from 29 mills to just over 25.

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