Tax relief, road funding top issues at county conferenece

2013-10-03T13:36:00Z Tax relief, road funding top issues at county confereneceBy LEANN ECKROTH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Tax relief and road funding will prove hot topics at the North Dakota Association of Counties State Conference, scheduled Sunday through Tuesday at the Bismarck Ramkota Inn. Some 500 county officials and vendors are scheduled to attend, according to Jeff Eslinger, spokesman for the group.

Eslinger said although the Legislature took action to increase needed road funding in the state, that funding source also requires a certain level of a local county match through mill levies. “If the counties don’t do the match, they don’t get the state funds and they don’t get the roads. They lose twice,” he said.

Eslinger said despite the state property tax relief action this spring, counties are still finding it a challenge to lower property taxes because of other state requirements. “It’s not as easy as it sounds,” he said. “As county social service staff increases, the counties must also match the pay increases the state makes for state employees.” He said workers in social services are entirely funded by individual counties, but the state requires counties to increase these workers’ pay to the same level the state does for its state workers. North Dakota counties are pushing to have the state totally fund social services or fund more of the social services staff pay. He said as the population increases in the state so does the number of incidents that require children to be removed from at-risk homes. The higher case load means more social services staff must hired, Eslinger said.

State Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, Sen. Dwight Cook, R- Mandan, Rep. Mike Nathe, R- Bismarck, and Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir will participate in the property tax relief discussion at 1:15 p.m. Monday at the Cannonball Room.

Keynote speaker will be Linda Langston, president of the National Association of Counties. She will speak 3:30 p.m. on Monday at the Dakota Ballroom.

Langston is leading efforts in Washington, D.C., to protect the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds, reauthorization of the farm bill, immigration reform and transportation/infrastructure funding. She is the county supervisor in Linn County, Iowa.

Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.

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