Entries Tagged 'Taxes' ↓

Sioux Falls School District has NO PLAN to staff $300 Million in new schools

Maybe Sioux Falls School Board Member, Cynthia Mickelson just didn’t know the answer, but when asked the other day while addressing the League of Women Voters about the school bonds, she was asked where the money will come from to staff the new schools.

Obviously, when you build three new schools and spend $40 million to upgrade other schools, you will need additional staff. When Cynthia was asked the question, she pretty much said, “We will figure it out.”

The $300 million bond is ONLY for capital improvements and will not be used for operating. On top of that, the levy will change so they could change the tax structure for paying off the bonds. In other words LESS money coming in for operating.

So how will they staff the new schools? I expect another small opt-out initiated by the school board. But seriously, shouldn’t the Super and Board explain to the public how they will fund these schools operations? Utilities? Maintenance? Teacher/Admind/support staff salaries?

Good Question.

Add it up

I’m blushing a bit, for the 2nd time in one night, a different television reporter decided to look into what I have been discussing, a lot of tax and fee increases (KELO-TV screenshot);

While this is just the beginning, absent was the compounding of taxes, fees, levees, etc. I’m pretty sure this will be the LAST time we hear about this on the TV screen.

On a unrelated note, I hung out with members of the Femmes at the Top Hat after their show at the Pavilion. They didn’t give me any tax solutions.

ACLU of SD opposes Minnehaha County OPT-OUT

In response to the county commission’s consideration of an opt-out of property tax limits, Heather Smith, the executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, sent the attached letter to the Minnehaha County Commissioners this afternoon.  She’s also planning to attend the meeting on July 10.

DOC: ACLU SD ltr to Minnehaha County Commission PDF

Please take a look at the attached letter, but in brief, the ACLU of South Dakota is asking Minnehaha County Commissioners to shift away from funding incarceration and raising property taxes to find new approaches to our current criminal justice system. Our “tough-on-crime” policies have led to more arrests and increased costs, but don’t actually do anything to address the underlying causes of crime. Though the Commission may not have direct control over things such as who is charged with a crime and how many people are incarcerated in the county’s jail, it certainly has influence. There are myriad reforms that could be made on the local and state level that would keep our communities safe while also cutting costs.

In light of this proposed property tax opt-out and the school board’s proposal for its own opt-out, surely we could be looking at some alternatives so that the burden on Sioux Falls taxpayers/property owners isn’t so great.

Janna Farley, Communications Director, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota

DaCola Notes: In my conversation with commissioner Barth about the matter, I told him that the CC needs to have more control over the State’s Attorney’s Office when it comes to expenditures with certain prosecution cases.







For 14 years South Dakotans have been paying higher tax on their groceries in order to make it possible for South Dakota to win its tax case in the Supreme Court.

How did this happen? The preparation for the state to collect sales tax on online sales caused a significant hike in the food tax. It did not cause a tax increase on any other purchases, only food.

Before 2003, South Dakota cities had been limited to 1% tax on food. Then, tax “streamlining” rules were needed in order to position the state to tax online sales. The new rules said each city may have only one sales tax rate, even though the rules allowed the state itself to have a lower rate on food, even zero tax.

With the new rules, cities’ food taxes rose from 1% to 2% in most South Dakota cities, rather than lowering the tax on other things to match the 1% on food. Some cities had not been taxing on food at all, such as Rapid City, Mitchell, Spearfish, Pierre, New Underwood, and Wentworth. They were forced to start taxing groceries.

“The higher food tax has meant South Dakotans have been paying more for every breakfast, lunch and dinner for 14 years now to help win the Supreme Court case on collecting online sales tax,” says Cathy Brechtelsbauer, state coordinator for Bread for the World.

“We saw it coming back then. Some legislators told us they would cut the food tax when the state finally receives tax from online sales,” she remembers, “so the next legislature should recognize the contribution grocery shoppers have made to this Supreme Court success and make the next tax cut a cut in the food tax.”

With cities still allowed only one tax rate, a food tax cut would need to be a reduction in the state’s portion of the sales tax.

News release, June 25, 2018


Cathy Brechtelsbauer, state coordinator, 605-335-6222, ryebread@breadrising.org

DaCola Note; This is one of the reasons I objected the half-cent increase in sales taxes to pay teachers. I found it counter productive to increase taxes on food to pay educators more. I would propose a total tax ban on food, not just a decrease. I know this has gone to the voters twice already and failed, but with the SCOTUS ruling I think this would be the perfect opportunity to end the food tax. I also think the state legislature should end exemptions on certain items that are not taxed now, like advertising. I have also argued that this won’t help main street businesses one iota. Even by taxing online items and essentially increasing the costs of those items so they can implement new accounting software, online shopping will still be less expensive due to volume, and more convenient because of choices. I also think the money raised by the state in new taxes will quickly be ate up by expanding government agencies that will be responsible in collecting these taxes. At the end of the day we have accomplished nothing but increasing prices for consumers to grow government. Thanks Marty Jackley and Deb Peters, for nothing.

Jackboots parting gift to South Dakotans

Besides the fact that Marty isn’t too concerned about millions of tax dollars missing in the EB-5 and Gear-Up scandals, he seems to be concerned that Joe Six-Pack in South Dakota isn’t paying his fair share of taxes on a coffee table from Wayfair.

He also used our tax dollars to fight this case, ultimately raising regressive retail taxes NOT only on South Dakotans but millions of other Americans across the country. I really believe this is an issue that Congress should have addressed with a flat rate across the board. This will setup a complicated tax rate system and in the end will only drive up prices of online products that the consumer will have to pay also. Once again instead putting in a fair system of taxation, like income taxes, we will be subject to an octopus of tax rates. Sorry, but this is a huge loss to consumers that will probably not help main street businesses anyway (because online purchases will still probably be cheaper due to volume). In the end, we all lose. Big time.

Just who did the School District send postcards to?

I watched the school board meeting tonight, they said they mailed out a postcard to Sioux Falls school district residents;

These surveys were mailed out last week to everyone in the Sioux Falls School District.

Weird? Right? I am a registered voter in the District that rarely has missed a School District election in the past 5 years. Where was my postcard? Would love to see who this was mailed to? I didn’t get one, yet I get a Community Education catalog.

That aside, you can take the survey HERE. You will recognize as I did, it’s more of a push poll than a real survey.

This part of the Envision Task Force report is a little murky about this to;

For example, for a home costing $185,000, the owners would pay 2 dollars more a month for the next 25 years.

But how much of that is compounded each year? Nobody has addressed this yet.

They also want to do a stand alone election in September because they must certify their 2019 budget by September 30th according to state law. Will they use ALL of the precincts or pick and choose super precincts?

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Board has questionable Executive Session

The school board met at 2 PM today (video above) to discuss the Envision Task Force Draft report. The meeting was posted as a 2 PM start meeting, but when people arrived they noticed the agenda changed to a 1:45 PM Executive Session before the meeting started.

First off, most of the time Executive Sessions are at the end of meetings not at the beginning. Secondly they have to state SDCL that it is an executive session, that is 1-25-2(2);

Executive or closed meetings–Purposes–Authorization–Violation as misdemeanor.

As you can see, besides stating SDCL numbers they must tell the public on the agenda the ‘purpose’ of the session. While they don’t have to state what/who will be discussed, that is the whole purpose of an executive session, they must say the topic or purpose. For example, pending litigation, student issue or personnel issue. They did not state the topic and took no action in open. This could be a possible open meetings violation.

Once the 2 PM meeting started they went straight into the draft report. Some interesting things occurred.

At 32:30 a member of the public, Michael Wyland asked where the document was that outlines the 30 member TF’s individual priorities and how the ranking was done. No one produced the document.

Other things that were stated was 70% of the people who will vote on the bond issue DO NOT have children in the school district.

TF Chair Vernon Brown bragged about the how nice it was only a $2 a month tax increase. This hasn’t been fully explained yet either how that will compound over the 10-25 year loan span except that there may be a lower capital outlay levee promised to offset that tax increase. No idea what that will be either except that they will model it after the 1997 school bond.

Super Maher stated that while staff can share FACTS about the bond issue they cannot encourage people to vote for or against the bond. This is questionable because they haven’t been sharing all of the FACTS so far, so I have a feeling the FACTS they do share will be cherry picked.

He also went on to say there is a private community group interested in promoting the passage of the bonds but wouldn’t say who it was. My guess it is probably involved with the Chamber, but not sure.

Finally, Maher said that while the $190 million will be for the construction of 3 schools, $40 million of that is for ‘TLC’ of existing schools.

UPDATE: I guess the School District’s Financial Director, Todd Vik mentioned that they would try to use super precincts in the proposed September 18th election. I missed that, but a reader pointed it out to me. I’m still researching whether they can do that in reference to Federal Law and disenfranchising voters.

I’m getting very nervous about how they are going to sell this to the community. Like I said, I support public education, we need new schools, I get it. Where I get troubled about the proposal is the details of what the money will be spent on and the lack of documents from the TF supporting why we need to do this.

This proposal will be doomed if they don’t start sharing ALL of the information with the public. Government works best when it is open and transparent, this proposal is already on shaky ground.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Bond Task Force threw transparency out the window

Now that the meetings are done, it’s time to look back on what was achieved and the multiple missteps the TF (Task Force) made when it came to transparency.

No matter whether you believe we should bond $190 million for new schools is really secondary to the process. It was NOT open, and I feel there is no intentions to keep it transparent moving forward.

I have mulled over several of the TF documents. Many important details are missing from the documents (that were available at some of the meetings). I did not attend the TF meetings but did watch 2-4 online. I have also been told by an attendee that they had to ASK for the TF documents at the 2nd meeting and were NOT available to the public (this is a violation of Open Meetings Laws). They were available at the 3rd and 4th meeting but NOT sure about the 1st meeting. But in the 3rd meeting, an important doc was missing in the publicly supplied materials; a spreadsheet of how all 30 TF members prioritized (all) proposed projects.

Some of these documents are available online (HERE) but most of them are not, including the Capital Outlay, just a short power point presentation. Not making ALL of the documents available to the public, either at the meetings or online could also be a violation of open meeting laws.

UPDATE: I found a document called “Bond Calculator” at the bottom of the document in small print it said this;

*The estimates above, are based upon financing the bonds over 25 years, using a 4% interest rate. The actual terms upon issuance will not be known until the bonds are sold. This calculator was created by the Sioux Falls School District and should be used for estimation purposes only.

Not only is this just an estimate – your taxes will go up over a 25 year period!

But that’s just the beginning.

Where the mystery starts is what happened between the 3rd and 4th meetings. The public was clearly left out of these negotiations, and my guess is that most of the TF members were to, or got docs at a separate time. It’s a head scratcher.

At the 3rd meeting the plan from the financial office and Super’s administration was to borrow the whole $190 million at the higher tax increase, all at once (I believe that was around $100 tax increase on a $185K valuation). It suddenly changed to $2 a month at the 4th meeting. This change was offered with little to NO explanation. They decided to spread out the tax increase (I believe over a 10 year period).

This is where they are not telling the story to the public or to the media. While it would be a $2 per month increase, that increase happens every year for the next ten years. In other words over the span of that time you will actually be paying $24 a month at the end. But that isn’t entirely true either, because you will also see an increase in your valuation, an increase yearly by the city council (they always pass this in July), opt outs from the County (they are building a new jail etc). And various other capital outlay levees. So while the first year this may be only $2 a month, that could easily be $240-$500 yearly increase by the end of the 10 year period. This of course hasn’t been explained to the public in great detail, so I’m speculating here. I can guarantee they are going to try to avoid that conversation moving towards the election this is why the strategy mysteriously changed in the dark of night between the 3rd and 4th meetings, unless specifically pressured by the media and the public to explain what the tax increase really looks like over the span of this loan they are going to move with the ‘$2 a month’ argument.

And let’s talk about the stand alone election they are planning for September 18. This has many issues in itself. I have been told by several voters who never miss an election that they voted in the 2017 stand alone school board election yet their ‘vote’ was never registered in voter data. Unlike using a ledger to mark off who voted in that election, they recorded the vote by computer. So were some people just not entered into the system that they voted even though their ballot was counted? Was the ballot counted? Some have suggested that a recount should occur of that election to make sure every one who actually voted gets put into the system. See, when you vote, government collects that data. They cannot record how you voted by they do know when you voted.

This is why a stand alone election ran by the School District is troubling. Will it be handled correctly? I’m not accusing the School District of voter manipulation, I’m just saying they have a poor record when running stand alone elections. Ballots locked up in cars, financial statements not available online, people showing up to absentee vote and the polling place is locked up or they have to wait for someone to unlock the room. All inexcusable sloppy practices.

While a stand alone election isn’t a bad thing, I think it is foolish to spend around $60K of taxpayer money on such an election when they could easily tie it into the General a couple of months away in November. Super Maher wants the election in September to move the bonds forward right away. But what’s a couple of months? Construction of the schools could occur year round, there is no reason to have a stand alone election unless there is a plan to hoodwink voters because they would have less people to convince to vote for this. Democracy works better when more people show up and participate. I actually think that they would get a higher percentage for the bond in the General because voter turnout is around 70% where school district stand alone elections have been as low as 4%. This is NO WAY to decide a historical $190 million dollar bond. Don’t think games haven’t been played before with supposed bond elections? Just look at the Events Center ‘advisory’ election. This was done because they knew they had little chance of getting the 60% passage like the school bond issue needs, so they made it a non-legally binding election and had the city council pass the bonds on an ‘advisory’ from the citizens. Oh, and there is also the concern that less precincts will be used like in the 2017 election where almost the entire North side of the city had NO polling places. Federal law is specific about disenfranchising voters – I’m looking into this more and will get back to you on it.

Some other interesting factors in the TF meetings;

• There was no definitive answer where the new HS would be located. The TF seemed to be split on whether to support accepting the Sanford gift of land. I look at this as a way for Sanford to position a HS by their sports complex and develop that area more. Is that a bad thing? Not sure, but something about the deal didn’t smell right to a lot of the TF members, including some people on the far east side of the district not having a new HS by the fastest growing part of the city, the SE corner. I suspect that the rubber stamp school board will graciously accept the Sanford gift just like they did with accepting the gift proposal.

• In the 2nd meeting, Doug Morrison, the new money dude purveyor for the school district who controversially got hired, said that overcrowding at Memorial could simply be solved by changing the boundaries and moving those students to McGovern which is only 60%(?) capacity. He said they don’t want to do that because they would anger some parents. What about the people who fund public education? If we could get by building only 1 or 2 schools instead of 3 wouldn’t that be beneficial to us in a lower bond and tax rate? The school board needs to make a bold move and change the boundaries. But they won’t.

• The chair and co-chair of the TF have possible conflicts of interest. Vernon Brown (Chair) is married to a teacher in the district and that teacher just happens to be life long friends with DeAnn Konrad, Public relations director for the school district. What kind of background information was Vernon provided by DeAnn around the kitchen table? DeAnn has also known Vernon for years, they used to work together at KELO-TV. I also wonder if Brown’s employer (SDN Communications) has any contracts with the school district? I don’t know? Does anybody else know?

Nan Baker (Co-Chair) is from the Baker family who owns First National Bank. Dougherty & Company who does bonding for many city, state, county and school district bonds must run those bonds through First National Bank. You can come to your own conclusion on that.

The DRAFT proposal will be presented to the School Board on June 6th at 2 PM, IPC center, they will vote on the final proposal on June 11 at the regular meeting at 5:30. I highly suggest the public shows up and starts asking hard questions about this bond. I think we should support funding public education, but we should also be fiscally responsible and transparent about it. The plan I have seen so far doesn’t even come close.

Lloyd Co. may have the highest tax valuation but are they paying a fair percentage?

I had learned a few months ago when Lloyd came crying for their TIF for the Cascade that Lloyd paid the most property taxes and had the highest property tax valuation;

Lloyd Property Management (Lloyd Cos.) adds $186.8 million of tax value to the city, according to the annual Comprehensive Annual Finance Report released last by the city earlier this month.

While Mr. Snevaliscious does a great story, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. (I’m hoping you have some follow up stories). So how much does Lloyd actually pay? My rough estimates would be between $2-3 million a year. But is Lloyd actually paying the same percentage as you and me or other property owners in town? The reason I ask this question is because Lloyd has received millions in TIFs (tax rebates) from the city and not just Sioux Falls, but other communities across the region.

I would be curious just what tax rate they are paying after averaging their entire payment. My guess is they are getting significant breaks. And if you think this will end after TenHaken just appointed a former Lloyd Executive as his COS, you my friend are sadly mistaken.

UPDATE: Final Sioux Falls School District Bond Task force meeting

UPDATE: Looks like they will be asking for $190 million dollar bond in a stand alone election in September. Never pass. Never. If they get 45% I would be shocked. The only saving grace of the night is that they will assess us over 10 years and incrementally raise taxes over that time period. They are going to sell this to us as a $3 a month increase ($185K valuation).

One of the best ideas of the night came from Public Works Director Mark Cotter (who I think knows passing the $190 million is going to be a challenge). He suggested a $126 million dollar bond and pay for the rest with capital outlay funds. He got poo-poo’d right away. They were quick to point out that they can’t trust Pierre and they may need that money for other stuff. In other words, get as much as we can and hey if the outlay money is still there, we’ll spend that to. A lot of greedy people run our school district.

The final meeting will be tonight at 5:30 PM at the IPC.

The group is expected to come up with a final price-tag and what exactly that will be paying for. They will also be discussing an election date. I think they are shooting for $150 million.

The Superintendent wants the election in September as a stand alone, which I think is a bad idea and will not get the 60% passage required, I think they would be better off having it in November.

I think they are assuming they will have a lower voter turnout which equates to a better chance of passing the bond issue. In other words they are going to appeal to people who they think will be willing to pass it. Sometimes this works, in this case I don’t think they will get passage for either date. I think they need to get the bond at or under $100 million. If they go with the $150 million price tag, that will equate to a $100 a year for every $100K valuation of home in property taxes.

While I know we need to build new schools, I think they should scrape some of the money from other sources and get the price tag down below $100 million. I also think they need a long range to 5 year plan in build all of the schools, spreading the expense out. I will vote against it if they can’t get it down to $100 million, and I have a feeling most people will to. I would be surprised if they even get 40% in favor of it.