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AARP Urging ‘No’ Vote on Measure 2

AARP North Dakota is among a large group of associations, businesses and individuals opposing Measure 2 on the June primary election ballot.

Measure 2 would amend the state constitution and eliminate all property taxes in North Dakota.

AARP joined the Keep It Local North Dakota coalition opposing the initiated measure because passage of this flawed proposal has the potential to impact numerous services provided by local units of government. Those include emergency services, such as police, fire and ambulance. It will also impact meal programs, transit and other services provided by senior service organizations across the state.

The North Dakota Senior Service Providers also joined the Keep it Local North Dakota Coalition to oppose Measure 2.

In North Dakota, 51 of 53 counties have a senior mill levy. These funds, along with the state match to county dollars, are used not only to support the required 15 percent match to Older Americans Act federal funds, but to help provider agencies meet the additional costs not covered by federal or state funding.

Linda Freeman from the Senior Service Providers group says, “The loss of county mill levy funds would be devastating to our ability to provide congregate- and home-delivered meals, health services, outreach services and transportation services in North Dakota.”

In addition, county mill levy dollars are used to help senior centers in the state remain open. “This is vital to our service provision as a majority of our services are provided at these facilities,” Freeman says.

A study by the North Dakota Association of Counties across all of North Dakota’s 53 counties shows only eight foreclosures in 2010 on private homes that were currently or recently occupied – and none of those were elderly homeowners.

In contrast to what some people perceive is happening with property tax foreclosures, the vast majority of foreclosures are on vacated lots or homes no longer in livable condition.

Evictions are rarely – if ever – elderly homeowners. In fact, many county auditors reported helping elderly homeowners take advantage of the Homestead Credit or taking other measures to avoid foreclosure.

AARP State Director Janis Cheney says, “We understand that property taxes can be a burden, especially to people living on fixed incomes. However, Measure 2 is not the solution. Instead, it will create new problems even more difficult to solve.”

Measure 2 is unrealistic. It requires the Legislature to determine what is best for local governments, including determining the funding for more than 2,000 political subdivisions. That’s not practical.

The measure is ill-advised because it would destroy local autonomy. You should decide what’s best for your community, but under Measure 2, you would lose control of your local government. City councils, county commissions and school boards, not the legislature, know what is best for their residents and are more accountable to the people.

If Measure 2 passes, it will likely require increases in both state income taxes and sales taxes, local sales taxes, as well as government fees to make up for the more than $800 million in lost annual revenue.

Finally, AARP believes that taxes should be fair and balanced and that tax policy should be made by elected officials and not locked into our state’s constitution. If Measure 2 passes, we will also eliminate the flexibility we currently have to deal with local emergencies and needs. Once it’s in the constitution, it would also be very difficult to change.

Keep It Local North Dakota is a non-partisan coalition of concerned citizens, associations and businesses dedicated to preserving the right of local control over local services. It is the largest, most diverse, public policy coalition in North Dakota history representing the interests of more than 300,000 North Dakotans.

Other groups opposing Measure 2 as part of the coalition include the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the North Dakota Education Association, the School Boards Association, the Public Employees Association, the Realtors Association, the League of Cities, the Association of Counties, the Bankers Association and the Builders’ Association.

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