House debating whether the state should take over funding county social services

Mar 16, 2017

Rep. Craig Headland (R-Montpelier), chairman of the House Finance and Taxation Committee.
Credit ND Legislature

03036 Property tax social services new                           3-15-17 ddt

Representatives of county governments packed a House hearing on a bill that would have the state take over funding of social service programs offered at the county level.

Counties have a special property tax levy for social service programs. And they say the proposal is property tax relief – and property tax reform.

"Property tax is a needed tax for local projects -- sheriffs, roads and things like that," said Wells County Commissioner Randi Suckut, the President of the North Dakota Association of Counties. "In social services, so much has gone away from local control. And because we no longer control it, it's a whole different ballgame than it used to be."

"The majority of the programs that we implement are either federal or state funded," said Traill County Social Services director Kim Jacobsen. "We are the designee of the (state) Department of Human Services. They assign the work, and we feel the funding should follow."

The measure has already passed the Senate. But the chairman of the House Finance and Taxation Committee said there may have to be some changes to the bill, in light of the state's current fiscal situation.

"The legislation should include mandated services only," said Rep. Craig Headland (R-Montpelier). "Some county social service departments are doing more than the mandated services. I don't think it's a good idea to having the state fund those services."

The Committee hasn't taken action.