Tony Gehrig: Why Does Fargo Keep Giving Tax Dollars Away?


Item 45a on the Fargo City Commission agenda was a 10 year PILOT requested by Border State Electric (BSE). Of course, you probably don’t know that because the Fargo Forum did not see it fit to report.

In easy terms, BSE is building a new headquarters in Fargo and applied to not pay $1.7 million in property taxes over 10 years. For them, it is smart business.

There is nothing wrong with a private company taking advantage of incentives. We all do it when we can. I do not begrudge Border State, FedEx, or any other company for trying to find ways to save money. This is not a business problem; it is a big government problem.

At the meeting I asked the CEO of BSE a simple question, “If you don’t get the exemption will you leave Fargo?” Her answer was, “Absolutely not”.

If that is her answer, why are we giving away the money?

Here’s the video of the meeting:

[fcc_jw_player key=”G7pMRRDI”]

An incentive, by definition, is an enticement to do something a company otherwise wouldn’t do. If the company will admit that they will do it without, it is no longer an incentive. It is a giveaway. It is an entitlement. That isn’t smart, efficient government.

It was no small amount that we gave away, mind you. $1.7 million will now be taken from your property tax bill in order to pay the taxes for this multi-billion dollar corporation. That is how incentives work. To them, $1.7 million equates to about 0.04% of their operational budget. To you, it means money being taken directly from your pocket book.

The FedEx deal has gone down as one of the biggest blunders in incentive history, recognized all over the state. This deal was equally as bad but this mistake costs tax payers about three times more than the FedEx deal did.

The state legislature is now watching. If we aren’t more responsible with our incentives, they will step in and take away our favorite toy. That isn’t a good thing; however it is probably necessary at this point.

I encourage all residents to make their voices heard. Email, call, or speak to your commissioners. Tell them how you feel about raising your taxes so that multi-billion dollar corporations can profit off of your property tax bill.