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Letter: Will referendum really help today’s young people in the long term?

By James Ewy, Rushmore

A recent letter to the editor written by Roger Elgersma caught my attention. What stood out is why someone from Pipestone was concerning himself with a District 518 referendum. It then occurred to me that perhaps Mr. Elgersma owned property within the district, but I could find none. He mentioned his years of farming in the 1980s crisis. As a then-young farmer I also endured those years, and must agree they were quite challenging. However, in those years, I paid less per acre in rent than I now do in real estate tax.

Mr. Elgersma also has a theory that higher real estate taxes will devalue farm ground, thus making it possible for young farmers to buy it. This notion is simply preposterous. As a general rule, young farmers don’t buy ground — they rent it, because they have not achieved enough equity to buy it. I have found that in more than 30 years of renting farm ground, the overwhelming number one reason for landlords raising their rent is that real estate taxes have gone up and they need more rent to maintain their living standard. So, instead of benefitting young farmers, this cost falls directly on them. If rising real estate taxes devalue farm ground, one is forced to apply the same principal to homes and other businesses. I cannot for the life of me twist logic enough to construe this as a positive for casting a “yes” vote on the referendum.

I have known many successful young people of good character who have been educated in District 518 and many other districts. Some went on to graduate from college, some became successful in other ways. Ask them what they attribute their success to, and you will hear very little about their high school but a whole lot about their parents.

I am all for educating our young people, and this is up to us as taxpayers. But is it wrong for us as taxpayers to expect those who represent us to display the same degree of jurisprudence in spending our tax dollars as we display in our business and daily lives? I am at retirement age and will be long gone before this referendum, if passed, is paid off. I find it ironic that this debt will need to be paid by the same young people we are attempting to help.