Mandan News

Mills or cents

District 31 Update
By Rep. James Schmidt

I recently had the opportunity to address the county auditors at a meeting organized by the North Dakota Association of Counties.

While the original issue was on another subject, the remaining time turned into a discussion on taxes. To be more specific, changing mills to bills.

At the time of this discussion, there existed a bill draft that was in the Interim Taxation Committee that proposed to eliminate the term “mills” and replace it with “cents.”

For example, current legislation refers that an entity cannot levy more than “x” mills. The proposed legislation would change that wordage to say an entity cannot levy more than “x” cents per thousand dollars.

I can understand “cents per thousand dollars.” I have a mental picture of what that is to my pocket book. I believe we all can understand “cents per thousand dollars.” It’s easier to comprehend, especially before we find out how many dollars we are going to pay come December.

But I learned in the world of county auditors, “mills” is an every day topic that they totally understand – inside and out. They live and breathe “mills.” And I believe they are very good at it.

As I understand it, they sincerely believe that there should be a process to educate the public regarding the formula and the terminology. Than afterwards, the public would have an understanding of the meaning behind “mills.”

During the following Interim Taxation Committee, the bill was addressed for consideration to forward the bill to the next Session.

A representative from the Association of Auditors presented the desires of the auditors. We were informed they voted unanimously to oppose the bill. Apparently, they believe it would create additional effort with no to little difference in the outcome, and that the timeline to convert the change was unreasonable.

I appreciate their concerns. However, many of the people who have put me in office have informed me they do not understand “mills.” Nor did I, until I assumed this position, and from time to time, I waiver on that understanding.

Changing from “mills” to “cents” will not lower your property taxes. It will not change your property tax statement that outlines the various taxes you will pay. I get that. But it will change how we, as taxpayers, view and understand what the various entities plan on levying for property taxes.

The Committee voted to forward the bill for consideration in the next Session. As for my colleagues, there is great support for the change so that we as taxpayers can better understand how property taxes, and those entities who levy it, works.

There will be other opportunities during the Session for those who support and for those who oppose the proposed legislation.

I support the change even though it may prove to be extra effort on county auditors. But after all, those who pay the bill should be granted a better understanding of what that bill is going to be before they get it.