If you’ve been following any of the pre-filed legislation coming out from Pierre so far this year, you noticed Senate Bill 5, as introduced by the School District Boundary Task Force, and primed in the Senate by State Senator Deb Peters.
I asked Deb to give us some background on the measure, and why it’s specifically needed. Specifically, unbeknownst to many in South Dakota, in several instances school districts have taken to suing each other, as they fight over their tax base. According to Senator Peters:
It’s about boundaries: it’s to put the focus back on educating students.
The Sioux Falls School District has been gobbling up high value land away from surrounding districts and making them insolvent. For example, the Tea area school district has spent over $100,000 on lawsuits to defend their tax base. West Central gave up $380,000 of taxable land just last year in order to avoid a lawsuit and Tri-Valley has spent considerable amount of money defending their tax base. If we aren’t going to talk about consolidation of schools and we are going to keep the school districts intact; then we need to protect the tax bases to ensure the school districts stay solvent.
School Districts’ priority should be educating students – not protecting tax bases to stay solvent in order to educate our students.
This may not be the end of legislation on this topic, but it’s a significant start.