Viewpoint: Some property owners have received city benefits without taxation
Mayor Brandon Bochenski says scenarios such as this add to the high taxation level carried by others.
Upon further reviewing property tax information, it has become clear and understandable why there are property owners along the Hwy. 81 corridor that don’t want to be within Grand Forks city limits. The data shows they have been receiving a large discount on their tax burden for decades and have received many of the same benefits as everyone else without contributing to the tax base and paying their fair share.
In 1994, the area fit the requirements for annexation, and the properties were receiving benefits from the city including direct access to workforce, services and customers, as well as direct usage of city roads which take a beating and are paid for by city revenues. Since then, you can also include 20 years of flood protection provided to this area, which they have paid nothing, while the city residents have been carrying the flood protection specials and flood protection utility maintenance fees, along with road plowing and maintenance for this area. All at the expense of city taxpayers with no cost to the businesses or property owners on Hwy. 81. Ultimately, the annexation was delayed in 1994 and finally completed in the summer of 2022.
Not only have the recently annexed property owners not paid city and park district taxes over the last 30 years, they have also received a large discount on county and school district taxes due to a significant and inexplicable property undervaluation as set by Falconer Township. As of 2022, the proposed properties were valued at only 61% of true and full value, which simply means the county and school districts have been shorted 39% every year those costs get passed on to Grand Forks city residents, as well as anyone in the Grand Forks Public School District and Grand Forks County whose properties are valued appropriately.
Sales data shows stark undervaluations in the area, including a property with a Falconer township valuation of only $276,400 being sold for $1.170 million in 2020 and another with a valuation of $189,300 sold for $460,000 in 2021. These are not anomalies, as the aggregate of all the recently annexed properties results in a valuation of only 61% of true and full value.
Several property owners in the area have requested de-annexation, which would be the first de-annexation in the city’s history. If the city is to consider the de-annexation, I would suggest we start with considering businesses that have been paying city taxes for the past 30 years, not the ones who haven’t.
Despite receiving the benefits from the city, this area has not been asked to pay any back taxes for the past 30 years, they have only been asked to pay the same tax level going forward, as the rest of the residents and businesses in the city of Grand Forks. This includes many businesses that compete in the same sectors. Scenarios such as this definitely add to the high taxation level carried by residents of the city of Grand Forks.
Brandon Bochenski is mayor of Grand Forks.