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Don Perrin, Pelican Rapids, Minn., Published October 12 2013

Letter: School tax complaint is selfish

In response to Todd Gross’ letter to the editor in the Sept. 17 Forum, “Do they not understand ‘no’?”:

In Minnesota, school districts have to request from the public, via a referendum, additional funds to remodel and maintain schools (unless they have reserves). It is not about understanding “no”; it is about that being the only option we have to get the needed funds.

The school board, with the recommendation of the Community Facilities Task Force, which included people from Pelican Lake and Lake Lizzie, decided to remodel versus building a new high school. The cost of a new school would be between $35 million and $55 million. The task force recommended, and the board approved, a recommendation to remodel, which would save the taxpayers a significant amount of money.

The numbers

According to public records, Gross’ property on Pelican Lake (property ID# R 17000990422000) has a 2013 assessed value of $512,400 and a school tax of $414.72 for the year 2013. Using the $512,400 value in the Property Tax Calculator, his tax, if the bond passes, would increase by $686.44 a year for a total of $1,101.16 a year – about 22 percent of his total real estate tax.

His property in North Dakota (property ID# 60-1100-01430-000) with a 2012 assessed value of $351,100, has a school tax of $3,464.62 – 69 percent of his total real estate tax. He pays three times the school tax in North Dakota for a home that has less value than his lake cabin, and that is if the bond passes.

I own a commercial building in the district (property ID”: R 76000990407000) that has an estimated market value of $194,600, and my school tax is $511.48. My total tax is $5,686, and if this bond passes, my school tax will go up $418.39 a year, for a total school tax of $929.87.

I included the property ID for all three properties in this letter so the public can check on my statements to see if they are factual.

Ongoing process

Gross is educated, and I am sure he worked hard to get where he is today; he deserves to spend his money as he wishes. But when I look at these numbers and read what he wrote in The Forum, I am confused. Fixing and enhancing buildings is an ongoing process for businesses, homes and government facilities. Sanford Fargo Medical Center is spending $500 million on a new building to be more efficient and serve the public better. I am sure that Veterans Affairs in Fargo is also making changes to be more efficient and serve veterans better.

If you own property in the Pelican Rapids School District, get your most recent tax statement and go to the District 548 website (www.pelicanrapids.k12.mn.us) and use the tax calculator, or call the school at (218) 863-5910 to find out how much your tax would change. In the past, people have been confused about how much they will be affected by this request.

Disconnect

Writing that there was some kind of revolution over taxation without representation, Gross should have been aware that he would not have had a vote in Minnesota on this, unless he became a resident. I am sure it works the same in North Dakota. Also, businesses pay taxes and they don’t have a vote.

It seems there is a disconnect between some local residents and some of those who have seasonal homes. Both sides need to come together and listen to each other to reach common ground. Some of our residents seem to take turns being angry about the fire hall, then the hospital district, then the school, then the public library, then the pool, and then start all over again. Over half of the Pelican Rapids School District property is owned by people outside the district. It has almost gotten to the point where very few people who live in the district can afford a lake cabin or even just a lake lot.

‘I got mine …’

North Dakota, Minnesota and the other Midwestern states are the envy of the rest of the country. Their residents are known throughout the nation as well-educated and hardworking. In Third World countries, only the top students have the opportunity to become educated. We don’t want to become a Third World country. If a student has the desire and the ability to achieve their goals, then I believe it is our duty to give them that opportunity. Our school is working hard to help our students become good citizens and give them an education that will allow them to pursue their goals. Please don’t take the approach of “I got mine, to heck with you.”


Perrin is a former 20-year member of the Pelican Rapids School Board.