How To Turn It Around
By Doug Dalager
As any home owner in Superior knows, our real estate taxes are higher than those in Duluth. This has a lot to do with the steadily diminishing economic base on our side of the bridge.
Superior has been shrinking for fifty years. Population is down by over 6000 people during that time period, which averages out to 120 people leaving town each year…year after year, decade after decade.
Assuming a family of four per household, 30 families leave Superior each year.
Thirty homes full of people pull up stakes and leave town each year…the typical block in Superior has between 10 and 15 homes on it depending on lot size. That means that each year we could bulldoze two or three blocks of residential housing and nobody would miss it!
That’s twenty to thirty blocks of homes emptied every decade…
Just imagine a five block by five block square in your neighborhood being demolished in the next ten years!
During my interview with Bruce Thompson, leader of the Better City Superior group, he explained that Ogden, Utah has grown over the past fifteen years through massive economic redevelopment. Currently only 19% of the city budget of Ogden is dependent on real estate taxes.
In Superior, our city budget derives 44% of its revenue from real estate taxes!
Is it any wonder that we have such high tax rates? Is it any wonder that the city struggles to balance its books each year due to the steadily declining economic status of our community?
When jobs leave town, when businesses close down, they no longer contribute to the financial well-being of our city. Worse yet, as we lose retail outlets in Superior, those who continue to live here find themselves spending more and more of their income purchasing things in Duluth. Those dollars do not come back to Superior.
Upon learning that 44% of Superior’s budget is on the backs of the home owners, and that Ogden’s rate was only 19%, I wondered what portion of the Duluth budget was sourced through real estate taxes.
So, I called the City of Duluth finance department and asked…I was connected with a friendly lady, who was very helpful in giving me that information. As it turns out, Duluth’s general fund relies on real estate taxes for only 17.6%…did I mention that in Superior that number is 44%?
I repeat, real estate taxes in Duluth account for only 17.6% of the city budget!
Duluth hosts 3.5M visitors each year, all of whom spend money in Duluth’s restaurants, hotels, and stores. The Better City Superior folks predict that Superior could benefit from 400,000 more visitors a year if their proposed development were built. Everyone of those visitors would contribute to the economic well-being of the city budget.
More development in downtown Superior means more jobs, more commerce, more people and more businesses paying real estate taxes on their properties. Presumably that will lead to more residents.
All of this would provide additional revenue for the operations of the city, and gradually the dependence on real estate taxes would reduce as a percentage of the whole. It’s really that simple.
Or…we could do nothing because as the conventional wisdom of Superior goes…nothing works here.
I beg to differ. Think positive, dare to dream, be brave and Vote Yes on November 8th.