These major changes have been five years in the making.

Bismarck's Special Assessment Task Force isn't quite as ominous as its name might seem to imply. It's simply a collection of Bismarck residents tasked with improving how assessments are collected for so-called "specials".  Specials affect property owners both residential and commercial.  So if you are a renter, thanks for reading, but these proposed changes may only indirectly affect you.

So what the heck is a "special"?

I just recently bought a home, so I don't have a lot of experience with paying for these "specials".  For taxation purposes, the city wants to assess the value of a homeowner's property.  In my case, they keep mailing me notices suggesting I invite them to stop by for a cup of coffee so they can jack up my property value and tax the dickens out of me.  Just got a FINAL NOTICE for that in the mail today. Is that even a thing?  I haven't opened it yet but I could read the bold lettering inside the envelope.  I reckon I'll let the revenuers come by soon to do their dirty work.  So y'see a special is actually a charge for when the city has to perform actual dirty work. This is from the smart folks at

A special assessment is a local surtax charge that state and local governments or homeowners’ associations levy against property owners whose real estate may benefit from the creation of certain public projects, such as water and sewer lines, street lights, and police and fire protection.

This non-ad valorem tax is based on the assessed property value applied to all homeowners in a designated neighborhood known as a “special assessment district” (SAD) that may benefit from the improvements.

So when it's time for the city to rip up your street for necessary repairs/improvements in your neighborhood, the city wants land owners to pay their part so we're billed accordingly.  Which depending on circumstance can be a pretty hefty bill. For forever, those specials have been levied locally to the owners benefitting directly from the work being done.

The Special Assessment Task Force suggests land owners get billed all year-round.

So instead of getting hit with a massive bill when specials pop up in your neighborhood, you'd instead pay a lesser amount into a massive special assessment account that everyone can enjoy.  I'm not clever enough to say if this approach makes sense, I still don't understand what a mil levy is.

The good news is that 60% of Bismarck voters would have to approve.

But it looks like it's moving from concept to City Commission to begin forming the language for a Home Rule Charter Amendment.  I just figured as a homeowner you may be interested in these suggested changes.

I'd suggest clicking here for an update from the Task Force presented at Tuesday's joint meeting.  It's a pretty quick and compelling read. I'll figure out how I feel after I invite some nosey assessor over to my house for coffee.

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