†††† Truth in Taxation/Budget Lessons



Truth in Taxation/Budget Lessons

Prepared by: Dianne Miller (Lead) and Kevin Frazell


Lesson #1


Review a Truth in Taxation (TnT) statement to show students the various levels of government involved (County, City, State, etc.) in taxing. In conjunction with the TnT Statement, have each student review


    1. Using the Web sites from each jurisdiction, identify what services a resident receives from each of the jurisdictions.
    2. Identify what the overall tax increase/decrease is for the year.
    3. What percentage of a personís tax payment goes to each jurisdiction?


Lesson #2


Review a City budget to determine how the City spends your tax dollars.



a.       Prepare a pie chart that demonstrates the percentage of the City budget that goes to each department.

b.      Identify the services that are provided by each department through a review of a Cityís Web site.


Lesson #3


Review a summary of the City of Applevilleís proposed budget and the previous yearís budget. (include sample budgets)



a.       Where are the increases or decreases within the budget?

b.      Do you agree with the changes? Why or Why not?

c.       Do you think the elected officials were justified in their budget decisions? If so, why? If not, what not? If you think the budget increased too much, how would you suggest the jurisdiction reduce spending or raise non-tax revenues?


Lesson #4


Find an article in your local newspaper, City newsletter, City Web site, or State-wide newspaper that addresses an issue of local government spending. (e.g. Should the City build a Community Center? Should the community pass a local school referendum? Should the County reduce social services spending?)



  1. Review the article and research the issue being discussed
  2. Formulate your own opinion about the issue at hand and write a 2-page paper defending your opinion.
  3. Include a copy of the newspaper article with your paper.


Lesson #5


You are a City Council Member in the City of Appleville, Minnesota. Your term on the City Council is about to expire and you are seeking reelection in the coming year. City staff has just presented you with a budget proposal that will result in a 20% tax increase for the City. The national economy is in a recession, and unemployment is high in Appleville. The Chamber of Commerce is demanding no new taxes for the coming year. City employees are demanding a 3% cost of living adjustment since they have not received a pay raise in three years. Appleville has had a string of bad winters, and three of the Cityís seven snow plows are mechanically in disarray and need to be replaced. The Cityís library has not received a funding increase in two years, and the Library Director, who is a close fried of yours, has told the Mayor that if the library does not get additional money this year, then she will have no choice but to start closing the libraries to the public on weekends.



a.       As an elected official, how do you propose the City of Appleville solve its budget difficulties?

b.      Would you raise taxes? Why or why not? What services will you reduce and/or how will you raise revenues?

c.       As an elected official, what are some possible consequences of your budget decisions? What makes your decisions difficult?

d.      What ethical responsibilities do you have as an elected official?


This site is being developed and maintained by the Urban & Regional Studies Institute (URSI) at Minnesota State University, Mankato as a service to the Minnesota City/County Management Association.

Created 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 29 December 04