Sunday, October 23, 2011


Husband Of State Legislator Responds On Unpaid Property Taxes

Yesterday broke a story about Republican Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch and her husband owing over $21,000 in unpaid property taxes on their home in Mandan. Today, on my Facebook page, Rep. Kelsch’s husband Thomas Kelsch responded to the story:
Dear Mr. Port,
I am sorry we were not around to return your phone call yesterday. The reason that mention it is because I could have provided you with updated information on the status of the real estate taxes. Yesterday morning around 9:00 a.m. I paid all of the Real Estate taxes we owed to the Morton County Treasurer. I tried to send you an email with an attached a copy of the receipt for payment of the 2008, 2009 and 2010, real estate taxes owed to Morton County dated July 12, 2011, but it was undeliverable to your address listed on your blog. You can confirm yesterday’s payment by contacting the Morton County Treasurer’s office. Apparently the County has failed to timely update its online records.
It is true we had unpaid real estate taxes from 2008, 2009 and the first half of 2010. This was my fault and was in part due to health problems that I was going through. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in early February 2009, (when these real estate taxes first became due). Due to the cancer I had surgery and went through over 6 months of Chemo Therapy. As a result of this illness and treatment I was forced to miss work, lost income and had increased medical costs.
And remember, legislators and their families are human beings, just like their constituents and are not exempt from devastating illness or financial issues.
I am not making an excuse for letting the property taxes go unpaid, it is just what happened. Nor am I asking for any special treatment.
I was fully aware of the tax deed forfeiture provisions, and that we had until October to pay off the 2008 real estate taxes.
Prior to 2007, ND property owners had 5 years to pay their taxes before their property would be forfeited, (four years after the tax is due). This was changed in 2007 in House Bill 1332, which lowered the 5 year period to 3 years. A check of the journal for 2007 shows that Rae Ann voted in favor of this reduction.
By failing to pay our real estate taxes when due we have had to pay interest at the rate of 12 % per year on the 2008 and 2009 real estate taxes. Given that high rate of interest, the taxing authorities have not been harmed by the late payment of these real estate taxes.
It’s certainly understandable when families fall behind on something like this due to illness, and I wish the Kelsch family nothing but the best though, I’d note, that unpaid taxes by a public official are a legitimate news story. As of the time of this writing the Morton County website still shows a balance of over $21,000 due on the property as of yesterday, but as Kelsch states it’s probably a matter of slow bookkeeping.
But, from a political perspective, what this story represents is a compelling case for abolishing the property tax. Thousands of North Dakotans signed a petition to put a measure on the ballot in the June 2012 election that would abolish property taxes in the state, and part of the motivation for that drive was the very problem the Kelsch family faced.
Every single year North Dakotans, whether it be because they’ve lost their jobs or fell ill or because they live on a fixed income, lose their homes because of property tax bills they can’t pay. And often these people own their homes outright, meaning they’re being kicked off property they own free and clear because they couldn’t pay what amounts to rent to the government.
The Kelsch family was, thankfully, able to get their property tax bill paid off. But what about the citizens who can’t? Why should you lose your home, especially a home you own, just because you couldn’t pay the government’s taxes on it?
The property tax is immoral and ought to be ended. The Kelsch’s story, in my opinion, is illustrative of that.
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