Recently I was approached by a friend of mine, a retired engineer, who recently visited Bemidji for the first time in some years. He was quick to point out how well Bemidji is doing economically and what he perceived to be prosperity. In my usual investigative manner and not knowing in which direction the shots were going to fire, I asked, “Why do you think that is?” To my surprise it wasn’t at all what I expected. My friend talked about the city bypass that Bemidji has on US Hwy 2. This defies all logic used here that Grand Rapids would be devastated by a ring road. Interestingly enough Bemidji does have a ring road and they do seem to be expanding in tax base not contracting.
Granted they have BSU, but they have always had BSU. What else is going on here?
Whenever I am confronted with this type of question, when I get time, I usually go to the Minnesota State Auditors site and look at the comparison tables between cities in Mn. over 2500 population. This is a great reference, by the way, to get a handle on how your elected officials are doing compared to other cities. The latest numbers posted are for the end of 2011 or January 1, 2012, which ever you prefer, and they look like this:
Bemidji Pop. 13,528 Grand Rapids Pop. 10,879
Net Tax levy $3,798,823 Net Tax levy $5,270,441
Chrgs for Servs $1,180,400 Chrgs for Servs $2,415,698
Total Expenditures 2011 Total Expenditures 2011
The following week I presented my findings to my friend as printouts of the site and allowed him to form his own opinion. The cold reality boils down to this:
Bemidji has 24.3% more population.
Grand Rapids spends 37.2% more in total annual expenditures.
Don’t Kill the Messenger!