Tax increase impacts citizens
April 15. 2009 6:00AM
By Alan Van Ormer
For the upcoming school bond election, Dell Rapids Board of Education members have figured that $13.5 million will build a new elementary school. That equates to $1.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
For the school district students, that $1.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation increases the size of the classrooms, provides space for special education programming that includes occupational therapy and physical therapy, designates space for two computer labs, adds at least four rooms specifically to deal with those who are struggling in class and increases the size of the library.
“The benefit is that the school will get a modern, updated larger facility that will be able to get us into the future and handle our capacity and growth,” Dell Rapids School Superintendent Tom Ludens said.
But what is the impact on those paying the increased taxes?
Ludens said each landowner would be impacted equally. For example, if a farmer, a businessman or homeowner had assessed property of $100,000, and then they all would pay $186 annually of new taxes, Ludens said.
“The taxes to pay for bonds is spread over the different real properties equally, by state statute,” he said. “There is no differentiation for ag land, commercial or owner-occupied. Everybody pays the same tax levy for buildings that are purchased from bonds.”
However, Susie Donaldson, president of the senior citizens group in Dell Rapids, said the increase in taxes would impact each senior citizen differently. “A lot of senior citizens don’t like to have their taxes go up, because a lot of them can’t afford to pay the extra,” she said.
“I think that raising taxes is bothering a lot of senior citizens. I know we need a new school.”
It will also have an impact on the farming community.
One farmer, Bruce Burkhart, after talking to several school board members changed his mind on how he felt about the school district raising taxes to build the elementary school.
“I realized the problem wasn’t in the local school,” he said.
“The problem was how the state allocates the education funds. That is where we need to spend some time.”
Burkhart farms east of Dell Rapids. He grows corn and beans, hay and custom-feeds hogs. “Our profit or loss has to do with ag markets,” he said. “If we have a bad year, we still have to pay the tax,” he said. ‘If the tax is based on the ability to pay, it is more fair to spread the taxes out among the others. Any further tax increases after this bond election, should be based on a more equitable tax structure based on the ability to pay.”
And the tax increase will also impact the businesses in the community.
Lincoln and Minnehaha County Economic Development Associations Executive Director Jeff Eckhoff said the impact is on the bottom line.
“The increase in operating costs certainly has an impact in this economy, but most businesses would tell you the investment in the school is worth the increase because increase in school enrollment means more customers for the businesses and more workers for the businesses,” he said.
“Some time this economy will turn around. Business owners, more than anyone else, understand the importance of growth in a community. The school plays a vital role in the town’s growth.”