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Anthony Gehrig, Fargo, Published July 28 2012

Fargo taxes, spends, then taxes again

Money is always easier spent when coming from someone else’s wallet. The 2012 half-cent sales tax that was passed just more than a month ago has provided our new City Commission with the means to do just that. How easy is it to spend 17 million taxpayer dollars? Let’s take a look.

The NP/First Avenue conversion into two-way streets is moving forward with a $10 million price tag. The new Courts Plus addition, $4 million. And finally, $3 million in tax cuts for a chosen few downtown businesses. As easy as one, two, three.

The NP/First Avenue project has been debated at length. The whole project brings up a notion lost on this current commission: the difference between “want” and “need.” Needs should take priority over wants, and wants should be cut in order to ensure enough money and resources can be applied to needs. This project is a want, a very expensive want.

The Courts Plus addition is most vexing. Why am I subsidizing your workout? There are plenty of affordable gyms in this city. It seems that Fargo is pitting a public- funded business against private businesses such as the Sports Center and charitable organizations like the YMCA. I find this unacceptable.

Some Fargo residents may support the $3 million tax cuts for some downtown businesses, but why the need for such exorbitant tax breaks? The simple answer is taxes are too high. Our current system demands that the majority of businesses and residents pay an extremely high tax rate so that a special, commission-selected few can receive breaks. The undue and unchecked power to pick winners and losers is too great a temptation for any city commission, especially when gambling with taxpayers’ dollars. If the commission would simply suggest lowering property taxes for all, the cards would play in everyone’s favor.

I support sound, responsible spending of taxpayers’ dollars, and I urge our City Commission to do the same.

Gehrig was an unsuccessful candidate for the Fargo City Commission

in the June election.