Taxes can easily be considered a four-letter word with five letters.

We all pay them in varying amounts, degrees and actions. Death and taxes are inescapable, as the old saying goes.

I can’t really say that I have ever met anyone who loves, just loves, paying taxes. Although love isn’t the way I would describe how I feel about paying my taxes, I do recognize that it is the cost of living in this great country of ours. We pay taxes to pay for the services of government, public safety, education, streets and highways, administration, capital improvements, and any number of other things.

And we pay taxes in a number of different ways…income, property, sales, wheel, license and registration, services, and in other forms as well, small and large.

I lived in several other states since I left Minnesota in 1986 and returned in 2015 to this land of 11,806 lakes, often described as a high-tax state. It might be but in reality, dear readers three, the total is about the same.

South Dakota, for example, doesn’t have personal state income tax. It is one of nine states that doesn’t…Nevada, Florida, Alaska, New Hampshire, Washington, Texas, Tennessee, and Wyoming are the others. Residents of New Hampshire and Tennessee do pay tax on dividends and income from investments, but not on paycheck income.

Residents of states without personal income tax usually pay sales tax on food, clothes and other goods. It is usual to pay more tax on gasoline and it is certain that property tax is more. I believe that I pay about the same amount of tax in Minnesota that I did in South Dakota, even with paying individual income tax. And the services are better.

Pennsylvania had taxes that I really didn’t understand when we moved there. Some of these curious taxes may have dated back to colonial times. There was the occupational privilege tax…$52 a year for the privilege of working. That tax was $10 when we arrived and was boosted up to $52 by the time we left.

There was also the occupational assessment tax. That tax was set by the county boards and the amount was decided upon by one’s title at work. Retirees paid $10 for that privilege. My title was publisher and president of The Daily Item and I was the only one who lived in my county with this title. I believe the tax was $1,000 a year when I left. I asked the county if I could just pay on the president title, since there were plenty of other presidents and the rate was less. The answer was no. Of course.

I lived in an unincorporated area of Maricopa County in Arizona. I worked in Sun City, the first retirement community in the United States, but was too young to live there. I lived outside of Sun City, in Peoria, but this location was not in the Peoria School District but instead was in the Dysart School District.

Some years before I moved to this area, the Dysart School district removed Sun City from its district. Yup, it fired Sun City and the area surrounding Sun City from its tax rolls, meaning that for the first and last time in my adult life, I didn’t pay school tax.

The reason Sun City was fired from the district had to do with capital spending. The school district’s population was increasing, the school buildings were under-sized and crumbling, and needed to be replaced. The older folks in Sun City voted no in overwhelming numbers to any bond referendum that would have increased their taxes. After several of those votes, the district asked that this area – and subsequent surrounding retirement development areas – be removed. It was and schools were built.

School districts face a challenge that no other taxing authority to my knowledge has to face. School districts have to ask the voters, property tax owners or not, to voluntarily raise their taxes to pay for instructional needs outside the state aid and to build or improve buildings – capital costs.

Cities don’t have to ask. Counties don’t have to ask. States don’t have to ask. The federal government doesn’t have to ask. These entities just levy what is needed. And the federal government can just borrow money from China or wherever and run us more into debt. This is another subject.

There are many reasons, some would say excuses, for voting no on the school bond referendum on Nov. 5. Some don’t like the plan, some don’t see the need, some think that buildings aren’t important, some think the 1921 building is too beautiful not to be used, some don’t want to see a new school in a new place, and some think the price is just too high. People who have these beliefs – and others — will certainly show up and vote no. It is easier to vote no than vote yes.

Granted, it is a hard nut to swallow voting to voluntarily raise your own taxes. For some, particularly farmers, the price is high. The need for a new high school is great. It will prove to be an economic boom. It will improve the educational experience for young people for years to come.

Please join with me in voting yes.

Jan Mittelstadt Tippett is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. She can be reached at

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at

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