Elmer Counties Jesme Hear About New Funding Options | News, Sports, Jobs

Jill Schramm / DND County Commissioners listen to an update from the North Dakota County Association at the Elmer Jesme County Conference in Minot on Monday. From left to right: William Stanley and Arnie Langehaug from Renville County, John Pietsch from Ward County and Armann Anderson from McHenry County.

North Dakota counties will have access to more public funds, especially for infrastructure projects, in the 2021-2023 biennium.

This was the message from representatives of the North Dakota County Association to county officials in the region at their Elmer Jesme County Conference meeting in Minot on Monday.

The 2021 legislature focused on the current $ 8 billion of the state’s petroleum tax savings fund, the Legacy Fund, seeking more dollars for the state and political subdivisions, a said NDAC Executive Director Terry Traynor.

“This money is fully invested. But very little is invested in North Dakota, and what the legislature said is that 10% of the capital must be invested in North Dakota, and 40% of that 10% must be invested in local government. . They are therefore actively looking for construction projects, courthouses, shops, roads, bridges, sewers and water, schools to invest this money in the future ”, said Traynor.

In addition, the Legislature has placed $ 50 million of interest income from the Legacy Fund into a low-interest revolving loan fund of the Bank of North Dakota for infrastructure projects, he said. he declares.

Jill Schramm / MDN Ward County Commissioner Jim Rostad makes a comment at the Elmer Jesme County Conference meeting in Minot on Monday as Terry Traynor, executive director of the Dakota Counties Association of North, listen to the right.

Another bill allows counties to use their capital improvement tax for roads and bridges as well as for building construction projects. Counties can also borrow, using the direct debit to make payments. The loan term has been extended from five years to 20 years.

“So they gave us more flexibility to borrow. And there are more opportunities to borrow. I know the counties are not really big on funding, especially the roads ”, said Traynor. “But it’s an opportunity.”

Cash funds from the legislative session were more limited, he said. The prairie dog bill from the previous session that was supposed to provide an ongoing funding mechanism for political subdivisions was hampered by a lack of funds for the 2021-2023 biennium.

“We are optimistic, especially now, given the appearance of the price of oil, we will see Prairie Dog in two years. But that’s not helping at the moment ”, said Traynor.

On the other hand, counties are expected to get $ 13 million of the $ 60 million that the legislature has transferred from interest income from the Legacy Fund to the Highway Distribution Fund. Lawmakers transferred the money to avoid a proposed increase in the gasoline tax. The $ 60 million is equivalent to the estimated revenue generated from a gasoline tax hike of 6.5 cents, Traynor said.

The legislature also allocated $ 135 million to match federal discretionary highway funds, Traynor said. Some of that money will be available for the counties.

Cantons will receive $ 20 million in additional state aid, Traynor said. Of this amount, $ 10 million will be divided between organized and unorganized townships at approximately $ 6,000 each. The remaining $ 10 million will be allocated on the basis of the regular distribution formula which uses the number of kilometers of road. Distributions will take place in August.

Municipalities having difficulty finding the local twinning to access funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster reparations will also be able to obtain assistance of $ 750,000 in public funds.

A controversial bill involving very long truck loads, called road trains, on state highways has been passed in amended form, Traynor said. The North Dakota Department of Transportation can conduct a pilot project, but counties have veto power in their jurisdictions.

One pilot project mentioned as a possibility is in Burke County, where a Bowbells grain operation picks up organic produce by truck from Canada and ships it by rail.

Burke County Auditor Jeanine Jensen said the county had not received any information from NDDOT at this point. She said the commission would have questions about a pilot project because US Highway 52 has not been widened in that area and already handles heavy truck traffic. This section of Highway 52 is expected to undergo passing lane improvements in 2022.

Traynor also urged counties to keep their federal dollars under the American Rescue Plan Act until more is known about how the money can be spent. Counties and cities received half of their allocations, which are based on population. The remaining money will be available next year.

Local governments must commit the money by December 31, 2024, and all COVID-19 pandemic dollars must be spent by 2026. Some areas where the money can be spent include public health, mitigation of economic impacts, replacement of lost public revenues, payment of bonuses for essential workers or covering other expenses related to the response to COVID-19. Traynor said the federal government expects to finalize its rules for the money in August.

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