Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Truth in Taxation

This past Thursday evening I attended my 14th Thruth in Taxation public meeting. (Twelve of these were during my time in office.) Truth In Taxation (TinT). It sounds good, like so many other devices that are products of political minds. The Truth about Taxation is that the legislative mandated Truth in Taxation meetings cost the taxpayers a lot of money and are of very little benefit. The idea behind the legislation is that this public meeting allows citizens to have input into the budgeting process of their local governmental units.

The problem with this is that the legislation mandates the time frame of the meetings. They are all held in December. This is just way too late in the budget making process of governmental units to make any kind of substantive changes. A few years ago, the Nicollet County Board passed a resolution and sent it to our Minnesota representatives and senator. We suggested modifying the Truth in Taxation process to make it more effective and less costly. At the time, our Auditor, Bob Bruns estimated that the TinT process cost taxpayers over $30,000.

We suggested to the legislature that the law be amended to follow the process set up by our local county board. We hold at least five public meetings during the time period of June through December and we invite public input at these meetings. Input during the process is very important and can make a difference. If this procedure was adopted by all of the local governmental units, there would be no need for a costly public meeting and mailings etc.

Does it make sense to spend this much money and have two or three people show up for the meeting? In the 14 that I have attended, the highest turn out has been about a dozen people. One year quite a few people came and their concerns were about the valuation of the property. They seemingly had no concerns or opinions on the county budget.

The response we got from our representatives in St. Paul was that the lawmakers would never repeal something like TinT because it "just wouldn't look good". My comment is that each and every member wants to be known for saving taxpayer dollars and repealing this law may not "make them look good" but it should "make them feel good". end


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