School Comments By Superintendent Robert Mayer The people of South Dakota will, for the sixth time since 1980, vote on a property tax limitation measure. This measure is called Amendment A and it says "real property shall not be subject to taxation for school purposes."
Currently, $340,000,000 of the property taxes collected in this state go to fund K-12 education. This sum reflects about 50 percent of the school's revenue. The amendment does not address how this huge sum is to be replaced. Proponents of the amendment believe that the state legislature will find the $340,000,000 through other means of taxation. This other taxation means doubling the sales tax or implementing a personal and corporate income tax. Perhaps a combination of these taxes will be used. If state government does replace $340,000,000, no total tax decline will be seen. Amendment A will not lower taxes in South Dakota. Amendment A is not a tax reform, only tax shifting.
The amendment has serious flaws. The first of these begs the question as to whether the state legislature will replace $340,000,000. Any loss of revenue to schools will result in loss of programs for children.
There is no start date as to when the amendment becomes effective. Proponents say that due to the fact that property taxes are collected in arrears, the state will have a year to collect the replacement revenue. However, the amendment does not make the same statement. The amendment is silent on a start date. The start date could be immediate.
Amendment A also does not address the issue of paying for bonds that have been passed to construct school buildings. Proponents say that the bonds will be paid because there was a commitment made. However, the amendment does not say real property shall not be subject to taxation for school purposes except bonded indebtedness.
Extensive legislation will decide this issue.
If the $340,000,000 are replaced by increasing or creating other taxes, that revenue will certainly be collected by state government. Schools will then receive their funding from the state with instructions as to how such revenue is to be spent. Local control relevant to school issues will be a thing of the past. Most assuredly, state government will make decisions about teacher salaries, school facilities, curriculum, etc.
The passage of Amendment A will create a calamity with which the legislature must deal. We must ask ourselves if crisis management provides the best solution to problems.
South Dakota was the first state to adopt the initiative, referendum and recall. If the people gather enough signatures, a measure can be put on the ballot such as Amendment A. This process seldom produces good law. The proposed laws are not subject to debate, quality research or compromise.