Go To Beatrice, Neb., For Land Give-aways

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If you give land away, people will build. Or at least that’s the hope. Ever since the Homestead Act of 1862, Beatrice, Neb., has provided land to farmers planning to scratch out a living. The United States of America was in a different place at that time, economically. Today, town officials have drawn up their own Homestead Act of 2010 within the hopes that giving away essentially free land will generate real estate tax revenues to bolster the town’s cash reserves. Recurring property tax is something Beatrice needs more than more baseball fields and parks, reports the New York Times.

It’s what the small towns are doing

The spectre of budget deficit haunts more of small town America than ever, as outlined by the Times. Even Boca Raton, Fla., is considering it as it faces a $7 million budget gap. Giving away land or charging even a small fee would ally tremendous costs, including all the lawn maintenance fees public lands require. More residents would mean greater cost to extend services, but the hope is that the property tax revenue will make up for that.

Is taxing the non-profits next?

Small towns the likes of Manchester, N.H., and Concord, Mass., are one step from introducing the tax man to their non-profits. The spending budget shortfall has to be made up in some way. The costs Concord could make up if even a portion of the 15 percent of their total real estate that is tax free changed sides would be tremendous. At what point will organizations that benefit society have to do more in order to keep their communities afloat? Private schools, churches and numerous other organizations could come into question. The need in small towns clearly exists, and also the New York Times is not the only publication to notice this.

Beatrice welcomes homesteaders once more

Homesteading started in Beatrice in 1862, so it is fitting that it should return. The National League of Cities predicts a dire tax shortfall for America, so perhaps a return to homesteading is needed for financial purposes. As outlined by the NLC study, American small towns can be within the red by as much as $ 85 billion on property tax, sales tax and state aid by 2012. Such shortages will demand action. The tax benefit is there if more individuals are brought in, and building new and improved homes would also raise property values.

A simple solution to a simple need

Critics of the Homestead Act of 2010 and similar ventures elsewhere question whether it should be within a city’s power to dole out public land to “any non-taxpaying outsider who asks”. “What is the value of a lot to us if it is empty?” is what one concerned town mayor asked the Times during their report Harsh realities often require direct solutions.

Additional reading

nytimes.com/2010/07/26/us/26revenue.html?_r=2 and amp;hp

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