The Mandan City Commission reviewed and modified the city's $75,000 two-year new-home tax exemption Feb. 20, changing it to a one-year exemption beginning in 2019.

Individuals who apply for the property tax break in 2018 will receive the exemption for the full two years, while those who apply in 2019 will receive the exemption for only one year.

"I struggle with being responsible to the taxpayers and making sure that given the tightening we've had to do with our budgets ... that if we're incentivizing, it's targeted to things that we see a lot of value (in)," said Commissioner Shauna Laber, noting she "struggles" with "subsidizing" taxes on individuals who can buy a $350,000 home with a $2,350 mortgage payment.

"I'm not a fan of shocking things, where the incentive was there, has been there and then we just yank the rug out from under people," she added, noting she'd like to see a 2020 sunset.

Dot Frank, executive officer of the Bismarck-Mandan Home Builders Association, said the group backs the exemption because it helps make housing affordable.

"One thing that our association has really recognized and, I think, community leaders have recognized, is the need for affordability in our communities, and this exemption provides that opportunity," she said, noting she'd like to see Mandan adopt a $150,000 two-year exemption.

"From a market perspective, Mandan is in an excellent position to be able to step ahead and offer up this incentive that is not available, or made available, in its sister communities," she added.

Morton County, Bismarck, Dickinson and Minot do not offer the tax break. Burleigh County offers an exemption to first-time homebuyers only.

According to a survey conducted by the city between December 2016 and January 2018, 75 percent of survey respondents were aware of the exemption and 38 percent indicated it influenced their decision to purchase their home.

"I think the important thing is that we look at it, and we analyze it and see what's working and what isn't. If it doesn't work, we can change it," said Mayor Tim Helbling.

Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.

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