EDITORIAL: With taxes, saving pennies today can cost millions later
During a prolonged regional economic downturn, there has been a prolonged cry to cut taxes, particularly property taxes, and it has led many public officials to hold the line on spending. Many times, the spending restrictions have come by deferri...
During a prolonged regional economic downturn, there has been a prolonged cry to cut taxes, particularly property taxes, and it has led many public officials to hold the line on spending. Many times, the spending restrictions have come by deferring infrastructure repairs. And in the long run, it catches up with taxpayers.
A couple good examples are evident in Duluth. Hardest to conceal is the condition of city streets. During the mayoral terms of John Fedo, there was an extreme effort to prevent tax increases. It left some streets on par with the Ho Chi Minh trail. A study unveiled last night spotlights what happens when you ignore schools. It revealed Duluth needs 1,600 repairs at 23 buildings. The total cost would be $202 million.
It could have been worse. During the 1980s, Duluth taxpayers repeatedly refused to bond for new school construction. The need became so bad that the Minnesota Legislature eventually overruled the local decision and allowed the school board to borrow for new schools. But not enough of them.
This is a situation where much better decisions were made on this side of the river. The consolidation of older elementary and middle schools into new structures has positioned the Superior School District well for the future. And the buildings are better suited to meet today's educational needs.
Good decision making also helped Superior avoid another major hurdle that Duluth is yet to jump: overcoming irrational school loyalties. A true "Battle Royale" is almost certain to occur when Duluthians debate closing a high school or converting one into a middle school. Superior avoided that fight by offering the attractive option of moving children into attractive new buildings.
With property taxes, you can step over dollars to pick up pennies, as demonstrated in Duluth, or show strong leadership and make difficult, but good, decisions, as in Superior. But no matter what you do, there's no free ride.