Yesterday, I posted a letter from the McLeod County Chronicle that struck at the heart of the struggles in a rural economy.
I thought about it last night at work, pondered it some more in Hutchinson this morning, and feel compelled to write more about it today.
The peril faced by the GSL school district is faced by most of the districts around the state as well. Moving to another rural area simply exposes one to the problem in a different setting, and perhaps an even worse situation.
I have heard people in the Dassel Cokato area talk about the impact of people moving to the area as the school levy has failed once again their. The school will be forced to cut another $300,000, and total cuts over the last several years come close to $1 million. The same holds true for GSL, ACGC, McLeod West, and Hutchinson.
I understand why some familes voted against levies in their respective towns. You simply could not afford it. That is the case for some. I respect that in those cases.
The job market in our small towns is tough. I know, I have been searching for something locally for well over a month now. I do work nights in the Twin Cities, but that is not my long term plan. When you make on $8 an hour locally, with high property taxes and low service, you are forced to make difficult decisions, hence the letterwriter travels 65 miles for her job.
JOBZ was the GOP and Governor's answer to kickstart jobs in the rural economies. While job growth has spurred in some areas, the low wages still do not make these businesses competitive, especially when you compete with the Metro area.
JOBZ has not had a great impact in our area. In Dasel, I know of one business that lost 20 jobs to Glencoe as a result of JOBZ, the complete contrast of what the program was meant to do.
I also find it funny that typical Republicans want small government and no subisides for many programs, except when it comes to "special businesses". Then...it's ok to violate a basic plank of the GOP.
Unfortunately, equating wages to the cost of living is something that will not happen, at least our locally elected leaders will not advocate for it. Most (except Dille actually) have openly opposed increases to the minimum wage.
I am a strong advocate for paying a living wage!
So Andrea, how do we fix this.
1. We must hold our elected leaders accountable.
Some of these "politicians" have been campaigning on these issues for more than a decade and getting no results. Campaign promises were just that.
2. Educational funding reform.
We need to reform the funding models for K-12 education in our state. When we rely upon the levy structure to fund education, kids get left out. Kids in the Metro area schools and in property tax rich areas should revieve less state funding than kids in the rural schools, to offset low property values.
3. Property tax reform.
Truth in taxation hearings need to be held at a state level as well. Hold the elected leaders accountable for the budget process.
When are small cities rely on property taxes for funding, we will eventually face shortfalls. When the housing market bursts, cities are forced to raise taxes to maintain services or cut services.
We need a better, more stable method for funding local governments.
4. Challenge the "old boys club".
Find progressive candidates and organize on a grassroots level to defeat them!
I thought the letter was very good...although I do disagree with some of the points made. It does expose the greater issue at hand, the downturn of the rural economy.
Hopefully, our elected leaders will wake up...