Was the $2 a month tax increase for school bond total BS?

KELO-TV Screenshot (July 10, 2018)

I have often thought the sell-job we got on the opt-out really didn’t add up. I was looking at my property tax bill today and got suspicious where it lists the school opt-out. I didn’t think much of it until a South DaCola foot soldier posted this comment;

I just checked last year’s tax bill. It was $ 1164.57 for the year. Now, it is $ 1261.49. So, the increase for our modest home is $ 96.92 from ’17 to ’18. So where is that extra $ 16.75 coming from? I guess merely from an annual increase, which does not need opt out approval, huh?

I also noticed that my 2017 tax bill acknowledges a $ 80.33 opt out cost, too, which is found within the $ 1164.57. So the $80.17 mentioned for 2018 does not include past opt outs. So what was suppose to be $24, or $30 in my case – based on the honest evaluation of my home – has somehow become $ 80.17. That $ 50.17 difference might not seem to be much, but how can $24 ,or $30, becoming $50.17 be true transparency?

I looked at the value of my home and extrapolated for a $200K house. The tax increase for the opt-out for the school bond would actually be about $8 a month, NOT $2 a month.

So if this is true, how did the $2 a month promise turn into 4 times that amount? Probably like how a hand tabulated election by the school district’s finance department got a 85% passage rate.


#1 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.26.19 at 6:39 pm

Okay, here is what I think they did. When they were talking about a $185,000 home, they were actually talking about a $139,000 home. Because the Argus article*, that mentions the Task Force findings and how a $185,000 home would see a $2 per month increase in its tax bill due to the opt out, was really referring to market value most likely, which according to my tax bill is 33% higher than taxable value. And when you do that, $2 per month for a $139,000 home becomes $2.99 per month for a $185,000 home; but that still doesn’t explain all of the increase per month that one sees on their tax bill. So where is the rest coming from? My guess is that when they came up with this $185000 figure – or $139,000 if you will- they came up with this figure when looking at the totality of property values in this town prior to special exemptions like TIFS and similar tax exemptions, and this aggregrate number was not a fair number to look at when dividing up the tax bill amongst all of the properties in town that actually would be taxed.

Plus, I think we all remember when Councilwoman Erickson claimed before the Council, the last time the Council approved a major TIF, that we don’t have to worry about TIFs impacting school district budgets because the state recognizes TIFs and reimburses local districts for any revenue losses due to TIFs (Because you know, our State has all kinds of money for education 😉 ).
So, if the State does reimburse those lost revenues, is that reimbursement just going into the general fund and potential reserve fund of a given School Board, or is it directly used to offset lost tax dollars, in order, to keep the tax bill for everyone else not any more because of a TIF, or some other tax exemption? Or, to put it better, do TIF laws allow districts to indirectly increase the tax bill for others without an opt out being necessary? Because when you do the math with the most recent tax bill, you can find the costs of two potential opt outs, but we only voted on one of them.


#2 Wirelessly Irradiated on 01.26.19 at 8:53 pm

Just wait until the WTF 5G poles are installed. Then your tax bill will go down b/c your house value will immediately drop 20% (per reports from where they have already been installed). But then there’s that pesky mil levy they can adjust to raise the taxes back up again.

Since the City agreed to the 5G rollout, I decided best to sell my house. But then I read the article linked below. There will be nowhere to hide from the radiation.

#3 Warren Phear on 01.27.19 at 1:13 pm

A friend of mine told me he got his new assessment last week. Said it went up 15%. He felt his previous assessment was not what he could realistically expect to get for his home should he sell. Assessments and taxes are chasing people out, not in.

#4 The Guy from Guernsey on 01.27.19 at 4:42 pm

‘$2 per month’ was in reference to the tax levy needed to repay bonds sold as instruments to finance capital items (e.g. construction of buildings). “Bond Redemption” is a separate account in the school district budget. It is not typically itemized on the real estate tax statements. (It is not summarized on Lincoln County real estate tax statements).

An Opt Out is different from a tax levy in support of Bond Redemption.
The Opt Out is a levy of taxes which the school district has sought to collect as part of the General Fund which is in excess of the limits placed by state statute (for Sioux Falls School District, see School Board action in June 2017).

#5 Wirelessly Irradiated on 01.27.19 at 11:01 pm

Wireless baby monitor in the U.S. emits RF radiation at 1,000 times the safe level limit set by the European Parliament:


#6 l3wis on 01.28.19 at 7:59 am

Guy, that’s what I kind of figured, they were including the past Opt-Outs. Something I asked the SFSD many times, what was our current debt before we took out the loan. Never got an answer. I guess they expect use to pay that debt, but won’t tell us what it is. And notice that the current debt was never brought up before the election. Hmmm.

#7 Ljl on 01.28.19 at 10:11 am

Did his evaluation increase year to year? Lincoln is racing to increase evals before 2020.

#8 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.28.19 at 12:36 pm

“An Opt Out is different from a tax levy in support of Bond Redemption.”

“The Opt Out is a levy of taxes…”

How are these not contradictions?

And isn’t a bond an obligation, which potentially needs to be paid for via an opt out, which is the case here?

#9 LJL on 01.28.19 at 6:30 pm

In SD the state has mandated the county must decide to OPT out of the property tax limitations. A OPT out is an increase in the mill levy beyond the intended freeze. An opt out can be to pay a debt obligation or if cost is exceeding the normal incremental limitations increase.


#10 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.28.19 at 9:27 pm

Here’s an other good read, too.


#11 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.29.19 at 4:29 pm

“It is not typically itemized on the real estate tax statements.”

Except that the Argus article said you would, and no member of the Task Force ever challenged it.

#12 The Guy from Guernsey on 01.30.19 at 10:06 am

“Except that the Argus article said you would …”

First, I am not able to find anything, anywhere in which anyone indicated that the bond repayment would be itemized on property tax statements. The Harrisburg School District recently adopted a bond referendum – the second (I think) since the approval of the bond financing which included construction of the present high school. None of the details of bond repayment are itemized on annual property tax statements.
(You can, however, find details of debt repayment and the fund balances [Capital Outlay and Bond Repayment] with a thorough read of the school district annual report).

Finally, there is a list of The Biggest Lies in Life, which includes “but, the real estate agent said that the land behind my house would forever remain as buccolic pastureland for horses!?” May I add to this list, “Except that the Argus article said you would …” ?

#13 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.30.19 at 10:42 am


“But a $2-per-month tax hike to the average homeowner to build that high school, along with two other campuses and various maintenance projects “would seem reasonable,” Doug Morrison, the district’s Research, Innovation and Accountability director, said Thursday.”

“If the bond goes to voters and passes, the average home valued at $185,000 will see an additional $2 per month or $24.05 per year, Business Manager Todd Vik said Wednesday during the task force meeting”

So “well see” is not an itemization?

#14 The Guy from Guernsey on 01.30.19 at 5:51 pm

You will see – at this, the link to the various documents related to the annual school district budget, as dated 9 July, 2018 (prior to adoption of the construction bond, so that will not be included in this document).

Go to ‘Overview’ link.
Go to page 21, “Revenues – Ten Year Comparison of Assessments and Mill Levies.”

See the various and specific funds for which the district levies tax.
See that taxes have not been levied for the Bond Fund since 2014 (Payable 2015).
Tax results for the Example House (assessed valuation of $98,516 in 2000) are approximate to the V.S. Genius house.
There were no monies levied for the Bond Fund in either 2015, 2016 or 2017 (Payable in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively).
Monies will be levied into the Bond Fund in the future according to the repayment requirements of the bonds.
The estimated Mil Rate for SFSD taxes for an Owner Occupied property for 2018, Payable 2019 was $8.18. How does that compare to the mil rate indicated on the statement you recently received?

tl;dr version: the repayment of the bond may not even included in the property tax statement which you just received (2018 Taxes, Payable in 2019).

#15 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.30.19 at 10:41 pm


Do you live in a taupe house?

#16 The Guy from Guernsey on 01.31.19 at 10:35 am

For real estate taxes levied in 2017, Payable in 2018, the Harrisburg School District mil rate levy for Owner Occupied property was $11.665. This included a mil rate levy of $3.335 levied for Bond Repayment – not itemized on the property tax statements, but clearly identified in the annual report of the school district.

The point – while it is a bit confusing, the information is out there. Specific to your tax jurisdiction. Go to the information and seek to comprehend instead of speculating “OK here is what I think they did.”
Pro tip: public finance people always reference Assessed Valuations in discussing or projecting tax levies.

Do I live in a taupe house? I suspect the motive of your inquiry, but I’ll play along. Yes.

#17 "Very Stable Genius" on 01.31.19 at 8:28 pm

White or black SUV?

#18 The Guy from Guernsey on 02.01.19 at 11:55 am


#19 Erica on 02.02.19 at 7:48 pm

Our tax bill came in and our opt-out is $108.28 on a $205k home value (equalized). That is $9/mth for the school tax. $2 my ass!