East Grand Forks leaders are urging Gov. Tim Walz to delay property tax collections for Minnesota businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the virus causes businesses nationwide to slow down or close, East Grand Forks City Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking the governor to push a property tax deadline for businesses back 60 days, which would move it from May 15 to July 14.
The deadline, regardless of where it falls, is the date by which businesses in the state must have at least half of their property taxes paid. They’re required to pay the remainder in the fall.
The council’s vote adds the city to a list of institutions urging Walz to push back the deadline. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce drafted a letter to Walz on April 1, claiming that many businesses now have cash flow issues and will not be able to make the May 15 payment. Holding off for 60 days, Chamber of Commerce staff argue, will buy time for state and federal assistance to reach Minnesota businesses.
The Chamber of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks added its name to that letter between April 1 and 3, and East Grand Forks leaders’ vote on Tuesday is a show of support that adds their voice to the Chambers’ call to action.
“We understand the need for the difficult decisions made to mitigate and slow the health impacts of COVID-19,” the letter reads. “As a result, many businesses have been required to shutter their doors or have seen a tremendous drop in their revenue. This is placing a serious strain on the continuing viability of some employers. We appreciate the forthcoming financial assistance at the federal and state level, and believe more can be done on a short-term basis to prevent further economic hardship and hasten business recovery.”
The extension would presumably mean that East Grand Forks receives that tax revenue a few months late, but City Administrator David Murphy said that’s one reason the city has built up its cash reserves. The city had about $6 million in reserve when it started working on its 2020 budget in August, and that amount is slightly more than half of its annual budget.
Shortly before the vote, East Grand Forks Council member Marc DeMers wondered about a similar push for a residential property tax extension.
“If these businesses are being hard hit, and therefore they’re not paying employees, are we going to run into issues with people, residential property taxes having an issue as well?” DeMers said.
Murphy said the city -- or at least he -- hadn’t been contacted by residents about that.
“I’m assuming most people probably escrow with their mortgage,” he said. “So it’s maybe less of an impact this time, maybe more of an impact on the fall taxes.”
Eastside council members also voted 6-1 to extend a local public health emergency declaration for another 30 days or for as long as Minnesota’s peacetime emergency remains.