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Homesteading to increase tax base

In the face of shrinking revenue, some towns are hoping that a page from the past can help ensure their futures.

Almost a century and a half ago, Beatrice, Neb., helped launch the country's original Homestead Act effort, whose goal was to provide free or low-cost land to settle the West.

Today, Beatrice officials are hoping that by handing out city land, they can ensure future property tax revenues.

I don't have much faith in such a plan.

Perhaps I'm just too cynical, but I fear that folks who would jump at the offer would be too fixated on the "free" aspect and when it came time to eventually pony up, they would balk.

Sure, they have to build a house and stay in the town a certain amount of time. But   … I'm just sayin'.

Some townfolk share my skepticism, according to the story in today's the New York Times. And the program is off to a decidedly slow start.

But Beatrice says it's willing to wait.

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