Bulletin election forum: Lower taxes vs. more amenities splits candidates for Cottage Grove City CouncilThe candidates split when asked which factor they believed better attracted new residents and businesses to the city — more amenities for residents, like parks, playgrounds and splash pads, or lower taxes.
Candidates running for Cottage Grove mayor and city council drew some stark contrasts with one another Monday over what they as more valuable to a city: more amenities or lower taxes.
The forum, sponsored by the Bulletin and South Washington County Telecommunications Commission, gathered five council candidates at Cottage Grove for a debate that aired live on a local cable channel.
The candidates split when asked which factor they believed better attracted new residents and businesses to the city — more amenities for residents, like parks, playgrounds and splash pads, or lower taxes.
Justin Olsen, a first-term City Council member seeking re-election in November, said “the city has worked very hard to invest in this community — parks, trails — while keeping taxes steady since 2004.”
It isn’t just about parks, playgrounds and splash pads, however, Olsen suggested. He also classified city services like public works snow plows and public safety as amenities that make the city a more attractive place to live, saying they need “all the tools necessary to keep us safe.”
Lisa Meyer, a first-time candidate seeking one of the two contested council seats, also said community creature comforts are more important than lower taxes to growth.
“With no amenities, we will see people leaving our town for other cities where those amenities are in place,” Meyer said.
Candidate Tina Folch said the answer depends on who the city is trying to attract. Older voters, she said, would gravitate toward lower taxes, while younger families will seek out cities with more amenities.
The latter group, Folch said, is who will help Cottage Grove continue to grow.
“I think it’s the amenities that will attract residents and help our community grow,” she said.
For Matthew Kowalski, who moved to the city this year, higher property tax rates in other metro cities were a deterrent to he and his wife, however.
“[Lower] taxes are definitely a draw,” he said.
Kowalski said lower taxes don’t necessarily mean eliminating amenities or crucial city services. Eliminating waste would mean the city would not have “to skimp on the amenities just because you’re lowering taxes,” Kowalski said. City officials have said wasteful spending is non-existent in budgets that have remained relatively flat over the past decade.
Economic development will attract more people to Cottage Grove, said Michael Fouts, and more businesses mean lower taxes for residents. Encouraging businesses to relocate to the city “brings money into the community.”
Incumbent council member Jen Peterson, who is seeking re-election, was attending the Minnesota Homeless Coalition Conference in Duluth and unable to participate in the forum.
Cottage Grove candidates were scheduled to take part in a forum hosted by the Minnesota League of Women Voters-Woodbury/Cottage Grove Tuesday night.
Cottage Grove City Council candidates' closing statements.