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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lange: Local Philanthropy Could Ease Taxpayer Burden on School Bond Issue

There's a trend afoot in the South Dakota blogosphere toward group blogging. Not here! (I'm just bad at delegating.)

But I am happy to present the occasional guest column. Today, my neighbor and outgoing State Representative Gerry Lange takes a crack at the school bond issue here in Madison.

Letter to the Editor, Nov. 9, 2010, by Gerry Lange

The “full-court press” is on to “sell” the public on investing 17 million in a new gym and much-needed renovations at the high school. This is necessary in order to provide the first-class education that will attract young entrepreneurs into our community. I think most people understand this. What they don’t understand is why the total burden has to be loaded on property taxes, already plenty high.

A quick check at the courthouse before the last bond proposal enlightened me to the fact that land-owners and other businessmen with high valuations will pay way more than main street professional and business people whose buildings are valued much lower.

The last legislature tried to remedy the vast discrepancies in land valuations across the state by going to a “productivity” basis. It remains highly controversial, especially the provision to change the way grasslands are treated. The net effect sounds suspiciously like an income tax. The head of the Chamber came unglued when I brought this up at a meeting at the capitol during the last session.

Truly, if every piece of realestate paid according to “productivity,” then we would be back to Adam Smith’s 1776 advice that taxes be collected according to ability to pay.

Totally engrained in our present tax philosophy is that we must “look out for number one” and just vote NO. Every successful politician will tell you so!

On a brighter note, there is a model alternative to taxation. T. Denny Sanford, Buffet, and Gates provide good examples of how to fund worthy causes. Our own community is loaded with folks whose lifestyles wouldn’t change at all after a hundred thousand or even a million-dollar gift to the school foundation. It’s strictly a question of values. Interestingly, there’s a book out there that explains how happy you can be by sharing your resources with worthy causes. So bottom line: act to look out for number one! But in a more enlightened fashion.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure the school board would prefer the easier way out of simply getting a bond, and do we really want to start expecting administrators at this level to raise money? It's bad enough state colleges have to do it and we end up with donor-attracted names like the Dale E. Kringen Alumni and Foundation Center. Should we put our high school name up for sale and find a big donor? Ugh. The big mix of public and private money makes me uncomfortable.


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