Tax increases should come as no surprise

If readers of yesterday’s Minot Daily News were surprised to learn that their taxes are going up, they shouldn’t be. Local leaders and media have been sounding the warning siren for months that with property values dipping, the state ending its subsidies and the general mediocre economy, it was absolutely, without question, going to happen.

Those who greatly care about their taxes and expenditures of tax dollars pay attention, participate in public discussions and offer their input were well aware that this would happen. It’s been inevitable for years, since previous City of Minot administrations began using sales tax dollars to pay for the essential services normally paid for my property taxes. Given this dubious move of several years ago, it was a simple formula. If the sales tax boom slipped as the economy did, demand for services would not, leaving the burden back on property taxes. The city actually held the line on property taxes during the boom, meaning there would have to be an inevitable increase. There is no villain here, just questionable wisdom from former city leaders who moved us away from a property tax based budget to one that depended too much on escalating sales taxes. The latter never last forever and previous administrations do not seem to have taken that into consideration.

There were other benchmark moments when residents should have realized this was inevitable. The state swapping its subsidy in exchange for picking up more of the tab for social services. Were we supposed to think this state action wouldn’t benefit, first and foremost, the state? Then there was the debate about the community project fund and if and how it should be used. Once again, the debate included references to an increased tax burden.

There seemed little way that this wasn’t going to be the end result. Many if not most government expenditures are fixed – there is no way to dodge them. Add in essential services and there really isn’t a lot of room for any trimming that would have any significant impact on the bottom line.

It’s easy to say that tax increases are tough on people already coping with an economic slowdown. They are. But they also should come as no surprise to those paying attention to the factors in play.

Economic growth continues to be the answer. Recently, local government has done a decent job at keeping tax increases down. Now, can those same leaders, and other business and community leaders, effectively help grow the economy?

That’s the real question. That answer is unknown.

Sadly, tax increases were the known.