By the end of May 1972, the daytime highs were nearing 90 degrees and my wife and I turned north to a cooler part of the Midwest. We had a nice little nest egg stashed away as we pulled into a local United Farm Agency office north of Dallas, Texas and picked up a catalog that contained listings for old farmsteads and vacant forties, beginning with Oklahoma and ending somewhere near the Canadian border. Two years in Texas, convinced us that although the winters were relatively moderate, we were more suited to a four-season climate for a long-term place to raise a family.
For the next two weeks we slowly inched our way northward, seeking a place to plant some roots. By the time we reached the northern woods of Minnesota, wild 40-acre plots were not only plentiful, they also carried a modest price tag. Twenty miles west of Moose Lake, Minnesota, we found the ideal place where we built a log cabin and eventually gave home birth to three fine sons.
They eventually received a well-rounded education at Moose Lake School, which further enabled them to get college degrees. Although two sons now live in San Diego, California, and the other in Phoenix, Arizona, they never forgot where they were born and raised, Moose Lake, Minnesota.
Forty years ago, we chose Moose Lake because it was a small Midwestern town with a Norman Rockwell charm. We also recognized that the school was known throughout the area for its quality of education. We were not disappointed. As our children progressed through the system, my wife and I became involved in several referendums that provided much needed resources to insure that Moose Lake would continue to lead the way in educating our children. I remember some of the referendums passing with a 70 percent yes vote.
Today we are living in a much different political and economic environment. Anti-tax people are widely (and loudly) being heard. Most people do not like paying taxes; the main difference among people is how their tax dollars are being spent. Let’s address the taxes levied by schools.
Anti-tax sentiment is as strong in Moose Lake as it is state and nationwide and the taxpaying voters in our school district have a right to be tax-weary. Moose Lake’s local tax base is weak from the onset by an overly large amount of state land within the city limits. This situation has been exacerbated over the past two decades by the purchase of former tax-paying properties that are now non-taxpaying church property. For a town our size, Moose Lake has an inordinate amount of churches. This is by no means a judgment about churches and their non-taxpaying role; this is simply an observation of fact.
What has happened in Moose Lake is that a small number of taxpayers are stuck with an inordinate amount of tax revenue needed to support and maintain our streets, bridges and schools.
The flood of 2012 put an added strain on already over-taxed budgets. One can readily see why a person who owns land in the Moose Lake School District has written a few letters to the editor bemoaning more taxes. They have every right (I would say obligation) to do so. What I cannot understand is why there have been no letters to the editor standing up for our school and businesses. Wasn’t anyone else offended by the name-calling of Moose Lake as "greedy"? Wasn’t anyone else offended at the statement regarding the Moose Lake School Board that “the tax money being wasted is criminal”? Since when is it a crime to use a survey to determine the needs and wants of a community? I would call that being socially responsible.
Although the errant math used by the letter writer inflated the actual cost of the survey, to her credit the property owner adequately stated her case and the case of many other tax-paying voters of the Moose Lake School District.
It appears that apathy has taken a foothold in our community, for nothing has been said by anyone defending our businesses and school and that bothers me to no end. Refusal to stand up for your school and community only endorses what has been said about us ... we’re simply greedy. I refuse to believe that.
Whether Moose Lake needs a new school is not the issue. It’s about how wisely taxpayer money is spent. But if you don’t take a stand like the one property owner in the district with enough gumption to write a letter to the editor, then in the words of Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”