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2017 Resolutions Adopted by the North Dakota County Commissioners Association and the North Dakota Association of Counties

2017-01. Highway Construction and State Funding. This Association and the counties it represents, acknowledge the superb efforts of the State of North Dakota and its elected and appointed officials in securing and providing funding for critical highway construction and maintenance. The additional one-time funding allocations of past Legislatures have been extremely helpful, however the timing and inconsistent availability of these one-time funds has limited the impact. Dedicated, consistent funding for county transportation projects will allow state and local officials to be better stewards of these funds, help develop better long range plans for transportation improvements, and more effectively tackle the transportation needs addressed in the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study of North Dakota's county, township and tribal roads and bridges. This Association strongly supports the interim Legislative efforts to examine dedicated, consistent revenue sources for both state and local roads.

 

2017-02. Justice Reinvestment & Behavioral Health. The North Dakota Legislature has wisely chosen to again study the issues of justice reinvestment and behavioral health services during the current interim. Increasing jail and prison populations reflect both increasing crime, and the lack of accessible and effective alternative programing for the many individuals whose justice system involvement is directly related to underlying addiction and mental health issues. However, significant Legislative changes to sentencing policies have the potential to further increase county jail populations and costs. The legislatively-granted authority for DOCR to refuse state-sentenced inmates, leaving them in county jails also has a very real potential to increase property tax-supported jail costs. This Association supports the interim studies underway and strongly supports recommendations that will increase services and improve outcomes while reducing the need for incarceration in county facilities.

2017-03. Human Service Financing. County officials applaud the Legislative action that temporarily shifts a very large portion of county social service costs from the property tax to statewide funding sources. County tax levies will reflect the shift of grant costs in their CY2018 budgets and related mill levies. This legislation however is only temporary, and much work is needed to develop a funding plan for the future that sustains quality human services at the county level. Counties urge the Department of Human Services and the various interim Legislative Committees to work cooperatively with counties to develop this plan.

2017-04. Collaborative Effort to Update and Improve the Assessment Process. Counties in North Dakota are responsible for local assessment of large commercial properties and reporting of those tax assessments to the State of North Dakota, including the determination of what is to be treated as real property. Few counties have the training or knowledge to conduct tax assessments of industrial properties on its own and typically contract with out-of-state experts. The statutory framework and administrative guidance for these decisions has largely evolved prior to the development of the large energy-sector properties currently in existence, while the dramatic changes in energy economics can have dramatic effects on the value of these properties. Also, although undervalued industrial property will shift the tax burden to other property classes, county government currently has no recourse for appeal of North Dakota State Board of Equalization decisions to reduce counties’ local assessments of industrial properties. Therefore, this Association urges a collaborative effort of state and local stakeholders to develop draft legislation that clarifies the definitions of real property, clearly including as real property the attached equipment and machinery that is an essential component of the facility. This Association also urges the examination of the use of a multi-year average valuation for large commercial properties that can experience significant value fluctuations. This Association further requests the development of legislation to establish an appeal process for counties after the State Board of Tax Equalization.

2017-05. Abandoned Cemeteries. North Dakota Century Code (23-06-30) makes counties responsible for the maintenance of abandoned cemeteries and describes what maintenance entails. The statute however is silent on when or how a cemetery becomes abandoned; and in some cases, this has shifted responsibilities to county taxpayers when ownership still clearly resides with existing religious and secular organizations as well as private individuals. This Association urges the development of legislation to further define the county’s responsibility for abandoned cemeteries and provide a mechanism for the county to take legal title for the property which it must legally maintain.

2017-06. Legal Drain Right-of-Way Ownership. A recent court ruling regarding the status of property previously acquired for legal drain construction, may impact water districts in many counties. The court’s decision that a past right-of-way purchase should be interpreted as an easement and therefore previously unused property reverts to the former owner, even though the former owner has never paid taxes on that property, leaves local government without tax revenue and the water district without the ability to improve drainage. This Association urges representatives of counties and water districts to work together to explore a legislative solution to this problem.

2017-07. Transportation Safety Encouraged. Increased interest in healthy lifestyles and “walkable” communities is prompting greater use of our state’s roadways by bicyclists and pedestrians. The North Dakota Department of Transportation provides important information about practices and behaviors to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety primarily through their website. The use of bright and reflective clothing is a particularly important practice to ensure drivers are alerted to the presence of walkers, joggers and bicyclists. This Association resolves to work with the Department of Transportation to promote and distribute this important information throughout the state.

2017-08. Medical Marijuana Impacts & Taxation. North Dakota’s voters have allowed for the sale of medical marijuana and the State Legislature has established a regulatory and state taxation structure to implement the voters’ decision. The experience of other state’s having also allowed for the sale of medical marijuana has demonstrated that this activity impacts local governments that become home to marijuana manufacturing and distribution facilities. This Association urges the examination of the authority for reasonable local-option administrative fees to ensure that cities and counties impacted by such facilities have the ability to generate the necessary revenue to respond to the impacts experienced.

2017-09. Timing of Annual Convention. Historically, the Annual County Convention and Exhibition has started with committee and caucus meetings on a Sunday, concluding on a Tuesday. This schedule takes most county officials away from their families in the middle of a weekend and can be disruptive for some. We urge the Board of Directors and Staff to survey the membership about shifting future conventions to begin on a Monday and conclude on a Wednesday, and implement for future conventions the recommendations of the members.

2017-10. NDSU Extension Service Support. NDSU Extension is recognized as providing valuable services for the citizens throughout the State of North Dakota. The Budget constraints that Extension is now facing threaten to reduce access to these important services. This Association supports NDSU Extension and urges that the Legislature provide adequate funding to retain local Extension services in all counties.