Border county to reduce property taxes to offset rising valuations

Fargo and West Fargo city officials have made it clear local property taxes will be increasing come next year. So it came as a surprise when Cass County elected officials recently announced they were heading in the opposite direction, not just holding the line on the county’s property tax rate but actually lowering it. County commissioners committed to the reduction by dipping into the county’s surplus in order to give taxpayers a break, according to Forum News.

With enough in savings to absorb a budget shortfall, Cass County plans to decrease its property taxes by two mills as part of its 2024 preliminary budget to help address increased property values in the region.

The Cass County Commission unanimously approved the budget at its meeting last week. The county is expecting to spend $50 million and bring in $47 million for 2024, resulting in a $3 million budget shortfall in the general fund, which covers day-to-day operating expenses.

The unexpected move comes in response to concerns over the impact of significant increases in property valuations on homeowners and businesses in recent years of market volatility.

Finance Director Brandy Madrigga told the commission that the county’s savings account has a sufficient balance to absorb the $3 million shortfall without causing concern.

As a result of the safety net, the county is lowering their property taxes for 2024 to help offset the increase in property values that are impacting county residents. Property taxes are predicted to bring in just over $34 million to the general fund next year.

While a welcome development for taxpayers, the decision to dip into the country’s reserves hardly represents a long term strategy.

While Cass County can handle a shortfall next year, continuously dipping into savings can have long term affects on taxpayers.

In the city of Fargo, budget shortfalls of $7.5 million in 2021 and $7.9 million in 2022 forced the city to pull larger than average amounts of money from savings to cover the losses.

This move drained the city’s coffers and left some city commissioners concerned that future shortfalls would reduce their savings below suggested levels. Like most households, the city and county strive to maintain a set balance in their savings accounts to cover emergencies. 

Of course, there’s one sure way to hold down the property tax burden on residents. Restrain government spending that once against next year is projected to outpace Cass County’s nearly five percent increase in tax receipts.