With property taxes being the lead story now in North Dakota for the better part of a decade, you would think the legislature would figure out that they need to come up with ways to control the growth local property taxes, rather than make it easier for property taxes to go up.

But if the State Senate gets its way on House Bill 1286, a new loophole would be created for local school boards to get around a long-standing tradition that controls property tax growth.

Current law which extends back at least to the 1930’s, if not further back, requires a 60% vote of the public when a school district want to do bonding for the purpose of building a new school.

Originally, HB 1286 was designed to close a loophole by requiring that school districts that use what are called “bonding authorities” be subject to the same 60% voter approval requirement as school districts that use the traditional method for funding projects.

It should be noted that Representative Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) has been leading the effort to fix this loophole for several sessions now.

HB 1286 as amended and passed by the Senate reduces that threshold to a simple majority (50%+1) – meaning that now every school district can get around the 60% requirement they have always had by creating these “bonding authorities.”

The bill is currently in conference committee, taxpayers and voters can only hope that the Senate version is rejected and the House version is approved at the end of the day.

If the Senate version of the HB 1286 becomes law it will represent a major step backwards for the cause of property tax reform.