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Letter: With education, 'you get what you pay for'

By Roger Elgersma, Pipestone

Lloyd Robertson writes about the need for reforming education funding. I am not against reforms that improve a situation, but most that want reform want someone else to pay for it.  Real estate taxes is the historical method of paying for schools. It taxed the rich and educated all the children — admittedly the first income redistribution. But if we all had to pay full tuition, half the children would not be able to read and we would have a workforce with much lower productivity, so your tractors would cost more. There are times that income redistribution is a good thing for society as a whole.

South Dakota improved teacher pay from 51st to 49th by raising sales tax by one half percent and no one complained. So, looking at other options is indeed a possibility.  But when farmland is worth approximately $1 million per quarter section, the rich need not complain too much. I know farming is not always profitable, as I farmed from 1978 to 1990 through the whole farm crisis. My neighborhood had some hailstorms, so we all went broke. When I started, my neighbors were mostly all well-established and I lasted the longest with very hard work and making adjustments to the situation. So do not blame me for not understanding the plight of the farmer. Like any other business, it is possible to try real hard and lose. If taxes went up a little, the price of land would come down a little, so profitability would be the same in the long run and the young farmer would be more able to buy land.  

Real estate taxes are typically in a ratio of 2 for farmland, 4 for residential property, and 8 for commercial property. So when the farmer complains the loudest, it seems a little out of line.  The reason the cities have more tax base than the rural areas is because the business property is taxed higher than the residential. So, they have better school funding, and the rural areas have a vast amount of wealth in land and a low tax base because the farm business property is taxed less than the residential. Somehow we got the state to subsidize the schools in the rural areas because we do not count our tax base at as high of a tax rate as the cities do.

Education is like anything else. You get what you pay for. Keep a balance between your wealth and your children's future.