Property Taxes and Education Funding

The question of how to equitably fund K-12 education while also providing property tax relief to taxpayers, many of whom have seen taxation levels nearly double in recent years.  Some would have you believe that these two agendas contradict in some fashion, they do not. 

Some would also like you to believe that the reason property taxes have skyrocket is because the state has cut back on education funding.  Sure, the increases have not been as high as some would like, but is there a time when everyone is totally happy? The dirty little secret that no one likes to talk about is that the real reason property taxes are high because local taxing bodies outside of school boards have failed to restrain spending in other areas.

The solution to education funding is not an across the board one-size-fits-all policy that makes one party or the other feel good – the abysmal failure of No Child Left Behind proves that quite vividly.  The real solution is to establish a dollar-specific baseline of per-student funding that the state is responsible for, then if the school district needs more, they work with their legislator to procure more funding; the superintendent of the district can then go to the legislature and lobby for the requested funding increase over the baseline. 

When it comes to property tax relief, Governor Hoeven’s plan, to trust the same county officials that caused the mess of out of control spending to happen in the first place, is absurd in its belief that the 10% tax reduction will actually make its way to taxpayers.  The problem with a direct refund from the state based on the amount of property tax paid is that the refund itself would then be taxed as a ‘gift.’  A solution around these problems to be sure the relief would actually get down to the taxpayer might be tax credit that could be used over multiple years against income tax liability. 

The bottom line is that tax relief without the guarantee that the actual taxpayers will receive the relief dollar for dollar as intended is really no relief at all.

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