Superintendent News

The subject of taxes tends to evoke strong feelings.   That statement doesn’t just hold true today - it’s been around awhile.  “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  — Benjamin Franklin or, from one of my personal favorites from Mark Twain, “What’s the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector?  The taxidermist takes only your skin.”

My own view of taxes tends to be complicated.  I have been known to grumble about the amount of taxes that I pay from time to time.  I also enjoy and appreciate many of the benefits that my tax dollars provide.  

I enjoy visiting parks.  I am grateful for public access to our many beautiful lakes.  We have a wonderful public library.  Our community will soon be home to a splash pad for children and families to enjoy.  An outdoor community pool - that’s in the works as well.  There’s no free lunch.  All of these nice things come at a price.  

It’s tempting to look at these amenities and evaluate them singularly.  For example, I might complain that my taxes are going towards an amenity that I am not likely to ever use.  It would be pretty easy for me to condemn the project as, “a waste of money.”  However, it’s important for me to remember that some of the benefits we receive from our tax dollars are at work under the surface.

I have mentioned in prior articles that a state demographer has communicated that Minnesota is entering a 10-year period where the number of people in our workforce will be insufficient to meet the demand.  To close the gap, that means our state needs to be more attractive to live in compared to our counterparts.  Certainly, the state’s tax policies are part of the equation - but there are other factors as well.

Various publications annually rank the best states to call home. In 2024, Kiplinger’s ranked Minnesota 9th.  U.S. News and World Report ranked Minnesota 5th. What would it take for Minnesota to move up as a state?  What implications does this have on local communities?  

Following is a list I typically reference when citing reasons why a person would relocate to a community.  

  1. Living wage jobs.
  2. Access to quality healthcare.
  3. Strong schools.
  4. Access to affordable housing.
  5. Access to affordable childcare.
  6. Amenities.

Communities that can check off these conditions will be much better positioned to thrive economically.  As new people move into the community, they fill job vacancies allowing our existing businesses to succeed.  Some of them arrive with an entrepreneurial spirit creating new businesses.  As new businesses sprout up while others expand, it generates increases to our local tax base.  As our tax base increases, this changes the distribution of local tax levies and can result in lower taxes for residents.

Amenities cost money to build and to maintain.  However, those amenities can also play a strong role in supporting our region economically by making Fergus Falls the best it can be through attracting a skilled labor force, supporting existing and future businesses and providing us with parks and libraries and other features that contribute to a great quality of life.