December 16, 2009

McKenzie County property tax bills take sharp decline

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Christmas isn’t the best time to receive a bill for property taxes in the mail. But, if you pay property taxes in McKenzie County you’re probably used to getting that bill at this time every year. And this year, you may even feel like you’ve received a little Christmas gift from the county when you open your statement, because most McKenzie County property tax-payers should see a reduction in this year’s property tax bill.
According to Frances Olson, McKenzie County auditor, the county tax statements for many taxpayers are lower this year because of a reduction in the number of mills.
“Legislative changes allowed a levy reduction grant to schools with higher levies,” says Olson. “In order for the schools to receive the grant, they can only have 110 mills. This savings is passed on to the taxpayers in the affected districts - McKenzie County Public School District #1, Alexander Public School District #2 and Yellowstone Public School District #14.”
In 2008, the McKenzie County school districts received $2,989,191.69 from the county taxpayers. However, due to the new legislations for 2009, the school districts will receive $2,192,871.90, a decrease of $796,320.79, or a savings passed on to the taxpayers.
Even though the schools dropped mills, they will not lose any funding, because the grant is going to make up the difference.
“For the districts affected, this is the lowest I have seen taxes as long as I’ve been in this office,” adds Olson.
A mill is one thousandth of a dollar, so as valuations change, the mill value changes. McKenzie County showed an increase from 2008 to 2009 with a county mill this year of $19,719,974 compared to $18,563,593 last year.
At the same time, there has been an overall increase of 7.4 percent in the county’s total valuation from 2008. The largest increase has been to commercial property which went up 43.5 percent. But because of the decrease in mills, most taxpayers won’t notice this increase.
Taxes are due Jan. 1; however, taxpayers have until Feb. 15 to pay the current year in full and receive a discount for early payment.
If you pay your taxes before Feb. 15, you will save five percent on the gross amount of real estate taxes, since no discount applies on Special Assessments. The first installment or first half of the 2009 taxes becomes delinquent after March 1, 2010, and penalties begin to accrue.  The second installment or second half becomes delinquent after Oct. 15 with penalties beginning to accrue on that half.  After Jan. 1, 2011, interest will also begin to accrue on the outstanding taxes and penalties.
Options for making payments are by check, credit card, or electronic check either in person, through the mail or by phone.
Another option to consider is paying in two installments. This option is listed on the tax statement, and if the owner has Specials, they are included in the first half payment which is due March 1. The second half payment is due Oct. 15.
By paying in installments taxpayers lose the five percent discount because they miss the Feb. 15 deadline; but there is no penalty for paying in installments as long as the deadline dates of March 1 and Oct. 15 are met.
The McKenzie County Treasurer’s Office also sends out a reminder in April, just in case someone forgets to pay their taxes or a mailed payment has failed to reach the Treasurer’s Office.