Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Fresh Eyes Column

by Caroline Downs

Thanks for reading!  Columns will generally be posted for
two weeks, so bookmark this site and check back frequently.

To read EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News each week,
subscribe to our ONLINE EDITION



Decisions and taxes . . .

Posted 10/09/13 (Wed)

My introduction to taxes came when I was in elementary school, reading the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

An adult character in the series, and I believe it was Pa Ingalls, tells the family at one point, “Nothing’s sure but death and taxes.”

Those words were uttered, written and shared long before Laura Ingalls Wilder ever quoted them. “Taxes” didn’t make much sense to me then, and they still don’t, but I’m old enough to pay them now.

I’m also old enough to appreciate the services they pay for, at least local and state taxes.

Believe me, I cheered along with everyone else snowed in at the State Game Lodge near Custer, SD, last Saturday when two state snowplows cleared two feet of snow from the highway in front of our temporary home, granting us access to the rest of the world. In fact, I probably would have sent a donation to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, but don’t tell anyone in Pierre that.

All snowplowing aside, Kenmare residents are faced with some tax decisions right now.

Actually, some of those tax decisions have been finalized by the city. I attended the special meeting held at the end of September regarding the proposed increase in property tax collection.

It always take me a while to see the relationships among the numbers listed for “revenue” and “appropriations,” and I don’t easily convert the percentages to mills and cash amounts (and vice versa), like some people do.

But I do understand it takes people and equipment to operate the city, and that right now, anywhere in western North Dakota, both of those expenses run high.

I have also learned that regular maintenance on property and infrastructure like streets, sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines is critical. Allowing any of these or other assets of a city to fall into disrepair will cost taxpayers more money in the long term.

Through the years, a few Kenmare residents have tried to impress upon me their isolation from “the city.” Supposedly, they don’t drive on any of the paved streets or walk on the sidewalks or venture forth when the streetlights are shining or leave their houses in winter.

Of course, they have never, and will never, need assistance putting out a fire of any kind or require any sort of emergency, law enforcement or rescue services.

On the other hand, the city has be accountable to its taxpayers, and I appreciated the direct questions some residents asked at that meeting. I doubt everyone was satisfied with all the answers given--I wasn’t--but dialogue took place, those conversations are now public record, and maybe those conversations will continue until satisfactory resolutions are found.

Taxpayers deserve that.

Next comes the decision to approve or reject a bond issue to build an addition at Kenmare High School. The Kenmare News has carried articles about this, along with the project designs and estimated costs for taxpayers.

There’s a school board meeting this Friday morning. Another public hearing specifically about the project should be scheduled before the November election date.

I don’t know if all your questions about the project are answered yet, but you’ll have at least two more opportunities to ask questions. Of course, you can contact school administrators and board members, too.

There’s much to consider here, from the increases on your property tax statements to the quality of education offered students to the impacts that new classrooms and gym space can have on all kids and adults in town.

The truth behind Pa Ingalls statement still resonates in the 21st century, although maybe the word “decisions” should be added to his list. Take time to learn more about the upcoming Kenmare School District bond issue and be sure about your choices.