Harsh day of winter arrives

It’s already a cold winter but for many in Minot, the harshest day yet arrived carried not by strong winds but instead by the U.S. Postal Service. In lieu of a snowstorm, it is arriving in the form of tax bills.

Total tax bills with a hefty increase of around 30 percent, combined with many people seeing the taxable value of their homes actually decrease, is a cruel cut at any time of year, much less during the holiday season.

Around Minot, there are unhappy taxpayers and stunned residents wondering how much worse things can get economically before there are any signs of improvement.

Perhaps the size of the increase should not surprise so many; and perhaps the drop in assessed value shouldn’t. After all, since the state opted out of property tax pay downs, since sales tax locally dropped off, and since there is no shortage of very serious needs, the City of Minot has been signaling – loudly – for some time that this was coming.

Still, opening one’s statement must have been a shock.

Yet it might not be this year’s taxes that are most disturbing to some. It’s what it means in the future. Is this a preview of things to come? Are hikes like this the new normal? Or will taxes increase incrementally from this new plateau? Is there a chance the rate could once again, go down? What would that take? And, since we are told this new city administration is looking at the long term, what is going to be done to prevent spending to drive hikes like this in the future?

The City has done a solid job at communicating the situation and advising anyone who will listen that this increase was coming, and that it would not be insignificant. There is bound to be ire at the City, even if the council and administration are not the leaders who got us into this position in the first place. To mitigate for this, city leaders must continue their new pattern of good communication and address each of the questions above, particularly the latter one about the future. It would be wise to address these issues, above all others, at the State of the City Address.

Realistically, the city might be looking at rethinking the construction of its new fire department. Curbside recycling, beneficial or not, might need to be delayed again – or killed. Scheduled roadwork might need to be reprioritized. Even Resilience Fund projects might need to be re-examined – and the federal government be reimbursed – if the upkeep cost is simply more than the taxpayer can bear.

For the most part, however, nibbling at the corners of the budget isn’t going to produce any relevant relief. The problem is not over-spending today.

Striking out at our current government for the situation is a temper tantrum. They didn’t create the financial condition in Minot; force the state’s hand on buy-downs; wait on flood control; or entangle the city in bad development deals. Their predecessors did. So, before you rest blame at new feet, ask yourself if you were calling for restraint when previous governments were spending; did you call for reform when bad deal after bad deal damaged city finances?

Minot Daily News sympathizes with Minot taxpayers this tax season for the news they’ve received. Minot Daily News calls on the City of Minot to explain how to work our way out of this situation. Minot Daily News does not believe this is a simple matter, fixed by city fiat in 2017. That’s not just bad news; it’s childish. Like so many challenges the city faces, it is a far, far more complicated task than that.