Letters

Letters Children are our future

To the editor:

It is very important that we come together as a community and support our children and our school. The financial problems affecting the Vermillion School District are the result of inadequate funding for education at the state level.

I have been very involved with writing letters to our legislators and discussing issues with them in person. We must make our concerns known. I would encourage everyone in our community to contact our legislators and let them know what level of state support you expect for education.

I don�t necessarily agree with every cut or every decision that has been made by our school board. But make no mistake, voting against the opt-out does not voice displeasure with choices made thus far. It only hurts our children not the school board. The opt-out is a decision about how much our children�s education is worth and what level of education do we as a community want to provide for our students.

The way to make positive change in the system is to get involved. Get to know your child�s teacher. Get to know the administrators and members of the school board. Volunteer to help in class or in the offices and you�ll see how hard everyone in our district is working to provide an education for our children.

No matter what the results of the opt-out vote are, I will continue to contact our legislators. Remember the opt-out vote is a band-aid for the next five years. My children won�t even be in high school by then.

I am very concerned about the future quality of education for my children and all those in the district. I urge you to please vote in favor of opting out on March 15 and to contact our legislators.

Sincerely,

Ruth Ann Hildreth

Vermillion

Either way, you�ll pay

To the editor:

Take it from me, the students in this community want the opt-out to pass more than any other group. We can�t even vote yet. So why do we care? It affects us.

Sure, your taxes may be slightly higher, but can you put a price on my education? I enjoy activities like tennis, band, choir, and drama. Can you place a tag on the joy I get from extracurriculars?

No. But if the opt-out fails,

you�ll soon be paying for more jails while kids have more time to get into trouble. Either way, you�ll pay.

My peers and I will be voting in a few short years, and we�ll vote on the same issues as you. I�ll be able to vote in the next presidential election. If the opt-out fails, my education on important topics like American government will be forever damaged. Do you want an uneducated person voting for your leader? Either way, you�ll pay.

If the opt-out fails, lots of funding will have to come from outside donations. Next year I�ll be knocking on your door for a few measely dollars so I can play my instrument (that my parents paid for) in the band. Either way, you�ll pay.

So before you vote �No� on the opt-out, think it over. Would you rather pay now or later?

Respectfully,

Amanda Granaas

VHS freshman

Future is at stake

To the editor:

Friends and neighbors, please vote yes on Tuesday, March 15 to provide the funding our children so badly need to preserve the quality of their education.

For the past several years the state of South Dakota has refused to provide adequate funding for the schools in this state. Because of this, many districts, including Vermillion, have been forced to cut educational programs, and the quality of education that their children receive. This is a terrible tragedy that must be stopped.

But the state is not acting to stop the problem. Districts around the state have been forced to opt out of the property tax freeze just to maintain their schools. Vermillion has made major cuts in programs over several years while the governor and legislative leadership in Pierre have twiddled their thumbs saying that they will fix education funding �next year.�

Meanwhile our children suffer while waiting for �next year� to hurry up and arrive.

We�ve waited patiently for the Legislature year after year and been disappointed. If we want to maintain quality educational programs for our children; if we want to make sure Vermillion is the type of community that families and businesses want to come to; if we want to continue the high quality of life we have in Vermillion; we need to take action.

We need to pass an opt out now. We need to vote �YES� on March 15.

There is no secret pool of money. The school district used to have a savings account that generated interest. That account is almost gone.

The school district got a one-time legal settlement. That money has been spent and there are no other lawsuits that might bring money into the district. There is no secret pool of money. This is why the school board has made over $1,000,000 in cuts over the past four years and will make another $350,000 more if the opt-out fails.

Cutting extracurricular programs will not solve the problem. Besides providing a valuable benefit to both the students and community there isn�t enough money spent on extracurricular programs to balance the budget this year. Never mind the following year when another $100,000 in cuts will likely be needed.

Cutting administration won�t solve the problem. We compare favorably to other school districts and the private sector. A business with an owner with three or four employees has more administrative overhead than the Vermillion School District. Even if we cut administration in half we�d be unable to balance the budget without ongoing severe cuts to educational programs.

I had one person chew me out for excessive administrative spending, telling me he was planning to move his children to a better school district in another state. I checked; that district spends roughly 40 percent more per student on administration than we do in Vermillion. Forty percent more!

Our school administrative expenses in Vermillion are a bargain compared to other states. And Vermillion�s expenses are in line with other South Dakota schools.

I don�t like paying taxes either. But this is important. The future of our children and our community are at stake. We need to vote YES on March 15.

Michael Granaas

Vermillion

It�s our turn

To the editor:

Vote �yes� for the opt-out on March 15. I am so concerned about what may happen to our children�s education and to our wonderful Vermillion community should the opt-out fail.

I attended conferences for my children recently, and at one point, my youngest son�s teacher indicated that he needs to be sure to complete his work with care and to get his work handed in. (My husband and I will support his teacher and remind our son to do so.)

It did occur to me that he didn�t have this difficulty last year, so why is he having this difficulty this year? Then I remember that his class size is larger this year.

There are about six more students in his class this year than there were last year, more students for one teacher to manage, less teacher time one-on-one with students. Have cuts impacted our children�s education? You bet they have.

It�s tiring to hear of other�s claims that there are too many administrators in this district, that sports and other extra-curricular activities should be cut, etc. Why is it tiring? In my opinion, these people are willing to sacrifice our children�s education to save themselves money.

What�s our children�s education worth? Don�t our children deserve to receive a solid education, preparing them for their future, for college?

Our parents, grandparents, others in the community paid taxes for us to be educated. It�s our turn. We have a responsibility to pay taxes for the children in our community to be educated.

Vote �yes� for my children�s sake and for the sake of the children in our community!

Clare Wagner

Vermillion

Message from the school board

To the editor:

The Vermillion School Board recently passed a unanimous motion presenting the voters of the Vermillion School District with a decision on opting-out of the tax freeze. The amount of the opt-out is limited to $800,000 per year over the next five years. This amount is an annual maximum since the board will assess the school district financial situation on each year to determine if the entire $80,000 will be requested.

The Vermillion School District has been facing a difficult financial situation over the past few years. Declining enrollment, limited state financial aid, and increasing costs have taken a toll. It�s clear that many school districts throughout the state face similar situations since 112 of the 168 school districts in the state have attempted opt-outs.

Everyone involved in the operation of the Vermillion School District including administrators, teachers and classified staff have all done their part to conserve funds where ever possible. Extraordinary efforts have been made to stretch the education dollar to the limit. The Vermillion School Board is very proud of the staff for the sacrifices they�ve made to reduce expenses.

Over the past four years the Vermillion School Board has made over $1 million in general fund budget cuts. This year, five committees worked to identify an additional $350,000 in cuts if the opt-out fails. In addition, our central office staff has been working to identify as much as $100,000 in cuts regardless of the result of the opt-out.

However, there comes a time when scrimping and cutting are just not enough. There comes a time when the community needs to take a serious look at the educational opportunities it wants to provide for its children. There also comes a time when we need to decide that our young people are worth the investment of a few more dollars. Your school board feels this time has come.

The Vermillion School District can take great pride in the success of its graduates. Many individuals have graduated from our school system and have gone on to be highly successful citizens. Many have stayed in the Vermillion area and have been especially successful contributors to our local government and economy.

We need your support to continue the tradition of quality education in the Vermillion School District. If you have any questions about the opt-out election and why we need the support of our local residents feel free to visit any school board member. Please remember to vote on March 15.

Tom Craig,

Member Vermillion School Board

Once too often

To the editor:

Once again we will be voting for this so called opt-out, which is a misnomer and we should be calling it by its right and proper name so that we all know and understand just what this opt-out is and will mean to all us property owners, �School Property Taxes Increase.�

The way I see it is that almost if not all the 30 percent property tax reduction we had received under Gov. Bill Janklow, and more of a property tax increases for many of us for the next five years. And let us not forget that over the next five years there surely will be taxes increased by the county and the city.

I speak as one who lives on a retired fixed income (but somewhat better off than many others that are trying to live and make do on their fixed incomes) and I also think about those people who are living, trying to maintain their homes and support their families that earn low wages and this even with both of the parents working. It seems to me whenever taxes are increased or when we raise all kinds of utilities, no one in authority thinks or ever gives any thought to our many older people who must live and subsist on fixed incomes and those people who live with and on low incomes.

The main thing I would like to know is how many of you school board members and you others have ever given any kind of consideration on how this five years of property tax increases will impact our senior citizens who live on small fixed incomes and small pensions and have very little disposable income just to get by. This five years of property taxes increases will maybe help the schools but in doing this you also will once again hurt those who live on fixed incomes and those who earn and live on low incomes.

At one time when I voted for the gambling I was with the impression that this tax money would help pay for our schools; this did not happen. Again when the state received all that money for the tobacco settlement, I thought the schools would be receiving some of that money and, once again, this did not happen.

There was the money that the state received from the sale of the cement plant and once again, gullible me, thinking our schools would sure profit from that sale but, once again, this did not happen. Our school boards and the people should be asking our state Legislature for an accounting of this revenue.

The one big major complaint I have about our property taxes and this five year new taxes increases on us property owners is that I have not seen or have I read one word about some of this five years of property tax increases that will be going to the pay increases for our teachers which is long, long overdo for many years.

For some unknown reason we have always put a higher priority on buildings and never giving a great deal of thought about our teachers. As far as I�m concerned and the last time I gave it a good look, school classes can be held and conducted in a tent but not without good school teachers to teach our children. Our teachers who teach and devote many other hours to the students should always be one of our top priorities.

Always increasing property taxes as a major source to fund and support our schools can not go on and on with this burden always and only falling on the property owners being the major source.

We must and we have to come up with a much better way to fund and support our schools and not only with those people who own property. It is and it has been a well known fact that the schools are not getting or do they get the kind of funding they should from our state government.

The way I see it is that we only have several ways to fund and support our schools and most important of all, pay our teachers a decent living salary and above all pay them a salary of their worth and an income they all can be proud of.

There are several ways we can fund our schools besides with only our property taxes. However whatever way we choose or support to fund our schools must be one that is fair to all of us and not only the property owners.

It must be a one that we all support and that will be shared with the majority of the people but at the same time we must also give consideration to those retired people who live on small fixed incomes and pensions and we must give some consideration and think of those people who live on low incomes.

Having said this I also must say that I still think that we should be getting more revenues from the gambling, the sale of the state cement plant and from the tobacco money. I know that the schools do receive funds from sale tax revenues and other sources but just how much our schools receive from these state funds, I have no idea but I do know it should be much more.

I believe that funding of our schools should be equal and fair but above all the burden of funding our schools should not be only the property owners paying for the schools and one thing I do know that the way we are now funding our schools can not go like this with we property owners being one of the main sources to pay for our schools and the education of our children.

I don�t know just much longer it will take the people in this state realize and come to understand that we need new sources and funding to fund our schools and that property taxes alone are not accomplishing this nor is it now or has it ever been the answer to funding our schools at a level they should be.

Now having said this and having voiced my opinion on this new increase on our property taxes, I close with some words of an old adage. �You just may go to the well once too often.�

Fred A. Duve

Vermillion

Opt-out is only way

To the editor:

As a parent of two young children and president of the Vermillion Parent-Teacher Association, I am heartened to see the letters in the Plain Talk in support of the opt-out of the property tax freeze to help our public schools.

I am particularly thankful for the support of the Board of Directors of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation. Businesses provide a large portion of the property taxes that pay for public education in Vermillion and I commend chamber�s board members for publicly stating that ensuring the future of our quality school system is important to our community.

Beyond my involvement with the PTA, I have also attended nearly every school board meeting this year, participated in the committees that suggested possible budget cuts, and scolded our legislative representatives at a cracker barrel session for not adequately funding public education in our state. Through all of my experiences, I am convinced that an opt-out is the only way we can keep our great school district and provide the best for our kids. That said, I believe the opt-out is a temporary solution.

I and fellow PTA members will continue to spend our energies convincing the state to fund education at a level that keeps districts financially secure.

No one likes paying more taxes. My family�s tax bill, however, will increase by an amount equal to one soda pop a day. I would gladly give up one Sprite each day for small class sizes, all-day kindergarten and a wide range of academic courses at Vermillion Public Schools.

Sincerely,

Paddy Rosdail,

president

Vermillion Parent-Teacher Association

Personal well being basis for decision

To the editor:

Today I received my 2005 Real Estate Assessment Notice from our local director of equalization, as I�m sure everyone else did, and I�m sure everyone that owns commercial, or private property noticed the value of your personal property took a substantial increase in tax value.

Everyone knows that it�s our civic responsibility to pay taxes for the betterment of our community, and the betterment of our society, but when will someone in our community start realizing that we cannot continue this race to poverty. Don�t a few of these city officials realize that a large majority of our citizens live on a fixed income, and we cannot continue this movement to tax, and destroy personal freedom.

The supporters of the opt-out vote continue to advocate that without the passing of this opt-out, our school district will have to struggle to continue a strong academic curriculum. Quality education, I hope, is not based on the amount of money coming into the budget, but how this money is being spent on the quality of the education.

Everyone I�m sure has heard what the district has done to help relieve some of the financial woes, and what the district plans to do if the opt-out doesn�t pass. But nowhere have I heard what new taxes will be generated within the next few years with Wal-Mart, and the other commercial building going on within our community. �What new taxes will be generated from these new businesses?�

I also noticed that nowhere in all these cuts did I see salaries being frozen, higher deductible on insurance, etc. This is usually one of the first steps of a school district to help solve financial problems, as well as getting rid of a lot of feel-good classes.

We won�t have to worry about Wal-Mart putting all the small businesses out of business, as long as we continue to tax at the rate we�ve been doing these last few years.

This is just not about property taxes any more; take a look at your last month�s utilities, gas, living expenses, and the last time you received a cost of living increase in your pay check.

This letter to the editor is not a notice of a yes or no vote on the opt-out election, but only a reminder that there comes a time when each and everyone of us will have to make a choice on our own personal well-being.

Just thinking out loud,

Dave Raabe

Vermillion

We need control

To the editor:

Here we go again � another opt-out. Why? Does the school board have the funds to pay for this election? Should this come out of their budget? Not the tax payer?

Are the real estate taxpayers going to approve raising their property tax? How much longer are we going to stand still and allow these school boards an open-ended check book to finance their out-of-control spending? What�s their budget good for if they can�t control the wants and greed?

If the opt-out comes about, our taxes will go up. For five years the school budget will double. The county has raised the real estate value of the property in Clay County.

Where does the increase stop? Are we being unfairly taken advantage of? Is it time to set up a tax payers� union to represent real estate owners? Everybody is represented by a union. Why not us?

Has the time ripened for a tax payer revolt?

We pay real estate taxes � then when we go into town we have to pay higher prices for everything. We know these commercial businesses and property owners are going to pass their tax increase to the public.

Why should a student 18-years-old that doesn�t pay any real estate taxes vote in opt-out elections and have his vote count just like our own?

Are not the tax payers the boss? Those employed in the school system should realize they are hired hands. Everybody works for someone.

There are so many places in the school system where we can find people not needed. Administrators business manager, too many principals and all their assistants; curriculum director and athletic director etc. There are hundreds of questions that need to be addressed.

In June, tax payers met with the school board. They offered a lot of ways the board could reduce the school budget.

On good report, we asked a former school official what happened to the suggestions. He laughed and said when everybody had left the meeting the suggestions were dumped in the trash.

What seems quite odd is the school board talked the PTA into getting signatures of people for the opt-out decision. The weren�t men enough to stand the pressure from the citizens. Having to stand behind the skirts of the PTA, they decided to go for it.

The items we have read in the local media having to do with making cuts in areas in teachers, supplies etc. ��these cuts have not been taken nor will they be.

What we need to do:

? Park the buses and use them only for transportation for country students to and from school. Do away with every sport that takes the students out of classes. We�re spending too much on sports for the few that make the team.

?�Start a physical ed hour for everybody.

? Stop the waste of food in the school. Have you had a look at the waste there?

? Teach the basics in school classes.

? Make all the extras: sports, band, speech etc. after school co-curricular financed by the student�s parent�s.

Finally, we do not have to worry about Wal-Mart or any other large store driving small business out of town. We�re doing a great job of that by ourselves. This has been one of the problems in this area.

How much of the school budget never sees the top of the table? It happened once; is it being hid again? Do we need to audit the school every month? We need control.

At present, the school system gets 70 to 75 percent of the taxes raised. The opt-out would give them 80 to 85 percent of today�s taxes. With the revaluing of property tax it might higher.

All we ask you to do is use common sense and vote no against the opt-out. You�re going to pay the tax. Can you afford them? Remember more money won�t solve this tax problem � but with good management we can keep the school system solvent.

Donald Gregg

Vermillion

Community, students need voter support

To the editor:

There has been a lot of discussion in our community about the need for additional funding for our K-12 public school system. Much of the discussion and information about the upcoming opt-out election has centered, and rightfully so, on its impact on students. This issue is especially important to those who have children in school but is equally important for those of us who do not have children in the school system.

Our K-12 school system also has a significant impact on our community. School systems have a great impact on the quality of life in a community and consequently the ability of a community to attract businesses and employees.

I served as Director of Human Resources at USD for many years prior to retiring last summer. It is very hard for schools in South Dakota to compete salary wise on a national basis when hiring faculty and staff. Anyone involved in hiring at USD can tell you that �selling� Vermillion as a great place to live is an important part of that process. Often when I spoke with new hires, they indicated they came to USD because of the quality of life which included a strong, progressive K-12 school system and a safe community.

In the past, it was possible to tell job applicants that Vermillion has one of the best K-12 school systems in the state. However, budget cuts made in the past several years have begun to erode our school system. The additional cuts that will need to be made if more funding is not provided, will further destroy what had been one of the best school systems in the state. This in turn will have a negative impact on our community, our quality of life, and the ability to attract new businesses and employees.

I strongly encourage voters to support not only our students but our community as a whole by voting for the opt-out on March 15.

Karon Fuller

Vermillion

Concerned with magnitude of opt-out

To the editor:

I sympathize with those concerned with the magnitude of the school budget cuts. I am also concerned with the magnitude of the opt-out property tax increases. Most of the letters to the editor have dealt with the loss of present available education and the emotional impact. Let�s discuss the other realities of this $4,000,000 property tax increase.

The proposed tax increase for all categories looks reasonable when projected on a monthly basis, but when the increase is related to taxes being paid, it amounts to a 36 percent increase for all categories. How do you suppose this is going to be handled by the rental property owner? The business owner, and the agriculture owner? Are they going to absorb this increase? Pass it on to the renter and consumer? What would you do? We have thousands of students at the university. Would increased rents and consumer costs cause them to think about a different school?

The Chamber of Commerce would like us to believe, with 13 listed reasons, that education facilities is the basic reason for moving here. I wonder if the new businesses that have moved here, and any coming, would feel that a 36 percent increase in the present property tax is an open-arms welcome. New businesses will move here because they like our life-style, and they are assured they can be profitable. This simply means more income than expenses. New residents follow new businesses. Unfortunately, in past years student enrollment has declined resulting in loss of income. When income goes down

you cut expenses � administrative as well as productive, but your goal is to maintain the quality of your product.

This additional property tax is supposed to terminate in five years. If there is anybody out there in La-La land who believes this will happen, without a fight, I would like to talk with them about some lake front property off of Norbeck St. that is very reasonable.

Beresford and Centerville voted against the opt-out. I doubt that our kids will grow up to be uneducated contributors to society if we vote NO on this opt-out.

Van Pierce

Vermillion

Vote ?yes� for opt-out March 15

To the editor:

We write in support of the opt-out vote on March 15. The Vermillion Public Schools served our family well for over 20 years, and we want the same for other children. The district�s dedicated, committed teachers make good classroom education their first priority, and are also formal and informal coaches, advisors, and mentors who encourage and positively influence students in many ways.

Some of those teachers (and administrators) can attest that we were not �passive consumers.� We always supported the school system and its personnel, but also asked (often along with other parents) for changes that we considered beneficial for our own and other children. District personnel always listened and responded as well as they could.

Over the past few years, we have also watched erosion of the district�s educational quality and of its ability to adapt to new needs. Teachers with heavier teaching loads, less planning time, and reduced staff and administrative support no longer have as much time or energy for seemingly small but important �extras.� A few minutes of a teacher�s time can make a huge difference for a student struggling to keep up with the rest of the class or for another student needing an extra challenge to keep him or her interested. Those students (and all those in between) deserve a good education, and the rest of us benefit in the long run from their enhanced productivity.

Consider cuts the district has already made. Reducing or eliminating art, music, library, physical education, etc., means our children are no longer exposed to interests and activities they might enjoy for a lifetime. Eliminating the Alternative School and the SOAR program (for gifted children) leaves many without the help or challenges that could greatly enhance their futures.

To some people, these are frills; to us, they are essential parts of an adequate modern educational system. Surely a society of SUVs and big-screen televisions can afford an adequate education for all its children. The district has also cut classes in math, computers, English, and foreign languages. Those are the very core of education.

Without the opt-out, the district will have to make even deeper cuts into fundamental, basic education by cutting more elementary classroom teachers, more high school courses (English, computers, business), and more support staff (counselors, librarians, school nurse, clerical help). Skills taught in these foundational courses are critical to success in a modern, high-tech, global economy. Failing to teach those skills denies our children the opportunities they deserve, and short-changes us all because we have a less productive workforce.

The state is not supporting education the way it should, while at the same time it imposes more requirements on local schools. Almost half of all school boards in the state have successfully opted out (and approximately another one-sixth of school boards have attempted unsuccessfully), even though that means higher taxes for themselves and their neighbors. Some other remedy is needed, but waiting for the state means cheating today�s children.

We don�t relish paying higher taxes any more than anyone else, but we want other children to have the opportunities that our children had. We hope the opt-out is only a temporary �fix,� but today�s children can�t wait until the state steps up to the plate. Please vote �yes� on March 15.

Mary M. Ring

Raymond J. Ring

Vermillion

Support students and our town

To the editor:

On March 15, Vermillion School District residents will have the opportunity to demonstrate their support for our school district�s students as well as pledging their support for the town of Vermillion itself. I would like to strongly support voting YES in favor of the Vermillion School District opt-out.

There is little doubt that the quality of life within any town relates closely to the quality of the district�s public school program. For years Vermillion has enjoyed one of the best public school districts in the state � the high quality of public education in Vermillion has been documented through numerous measures of academic quality. The excellence of the teaching and administrative staffs within the district has manifested itself through the persistently high ratings of Vermillion�s academic program. The success of the academic program has supported the quality of life that I believe is enjoyed by most Vermillion residents.

Without assistance, however, the school district�s present need for additional resources threatens this tradition of academic excellence and, therefore, the general quality of life in Vermillion. Despite drastic cuts in personnel and programs, the school district finds itself in dire need of a short-term financial boost. Due to rising costs of instructional materials, utilities, and health benefits, the state�s allocation of funds to the public school districts has become wholly insufficient to maintain current educational programs.

Vermillion, like many school districts of all sizes and demographics across the state, has reached the point that self-imposed cuts no longer enable the district to maintain personnel and programs at current levels. We, the citizens of Vermillion, have the ability to provide this much-needed assistance to the school district by passing the opt-out on March 15.

While each of us individually only needs to provide a relatively small amount of assistance through a very moderate property tax increase, the collective benefit to the school district and our children is immense. For what amounts to a very moderate contribution per person, we have the power to assure that Vermillion maintains the excellence of its academic program with the related quality of life that nearly every one of us enjoys. I believe that it would be a grave mistake on our part to be �penny wise and pound foolish� when it comes to the education of our children.

Please get out and vote to support the quality of education that we have come to expect in Vermillion. Vote YES on March 15.

Mark Baron

Vermillion

Citizens face important decision

To the editor:

On Tuesday, March 15, the citizens of Vermillion face an important decision. In casting their votes on the resolution to opt out of the state property tax freeze, the people of this town will, in many ways, decide what kind of future Vermillion will have.

The vitality of any community depends upon the opportunities and resources it provides for its residents. Without a strong K-12 educational system, Vermillion won�t be able to maintain its unique identity as an attractive, vibrant town � a great place to raise a family. Without a successful opt-out, the Vermillion School Board will be forced to make cuts to critical academic programs, cuts that will negatively affect our children�s education, hurt the district�s standing under the No Child Left Behind provisions, and place our graduates at a severe disadvantage for college admissions. Indeed, these cuts could very well jeopardize the accreditation of our schools. We simply can�t let this happen.

Many in the community claim that the school board merely needs to tighten its belt and learn to �live within its means.� When the federal government hands down unfunded mandates and the South Dakota Legislature balances its budget on the backs of our school districts, however, the board is forced to do more with less. Over the past several years, the district has cut over $1 million from administration, extra-curricular activities, and other areas. The perception that further savings can come from wasteful spending or unnecessary administrative salaries may provide some with an easy answer, but any review of the district�s finances shows this is plainly untrue.

Nobody likes increased taxes, and the formula mandated by the state Legislature undoubtedly places an unfair load on certain segments of the community. Nonetheless, the fact remains that South Dakotans bear one of the lightest state tax burdens in the United States. Furthermore, unlike the uncertain effect of so much of our government spending, the impact of this modest tax increase � for most homeowners, a few dollars per week � will be unmistakable when we consider the significance of all-day kindergarten, reasonable class sizes, the continued availability of AP courses, and other essential elements of our K-12 system.

Public education, to be sure, is not cheap. It is, however, something we must provide for the long-term health of our town, and it is what we owe to its future residents, our young people. Don�t sell out their future. Vote yes on Tuesday, March 15.

John Dudley

Vermillion

Two bits worth

To the editor:

I am writing this open letter to express my displeasure at how the South Dakota quarter process had been and is being conducted. South Dakota now had the distinction of being the only state to date that will not have a citizen designed quarter. Instead we will have a state quarter designed by the U.S. Mint for South Dakota.

I advocate that people when voting for the current designs available write in �None of the Above�. I would urge Gov. Rounds� administration to make post haste to solicit designs from South Dakota citizens. There are still several months remaining in the school year to allow students and teachers time for meaningful participation as well as time for all interested residents to submit a design. Please do not let the U.S. Mint tell you that there isn�t time. If the U.S. Mint says there is insufficient time for a change, it�s because they do not want to do it � not because they cannot do it.

As an example, the U.S. Mint was able to prepare a design and produce a die for striking the half dollar in two months following the assassination of President Kennedy. The South Dakota coin isn�t scheduled for release until the last quarter in the year 2006 � two months shy of two years time.

I do not think it is right for the citizens of South Dakota to have been disenfranchised from its own quarter program. And in my discussions with others I have found that I am not the only citizen that has this feeling and opinion. Others have written to the governor to no avail. I am writing this open letter to expand the audience and give the people an opportunity to voice their opinions.

In a recent press release from the governor�s office and published in the local paper, Gov. Rounds states in part �I believe the South Dakota quarter will be one of the more unique and desirable quarters.� I take issue with this statement. The buffalo on coins is certainly not unique. The United States issued coins with a buffalo on them from 1913 to 1938 and will re-issue another in 2005. It also looks like Kansas and North Dakota will both have state quarters with buffalo on them. Where is the uniqueness in this design?

Nor is Mount Rushmore on United State coins unique. In 1991 the U.S. Mint issued a series of coins to commemorate the Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary. The 50 cent coin even has Mount Rushmore and a buffalo on it. In addition, it is my understanding that the Native American Indian population considers Mount Rushmore a desecration of the hereditary sacred land. I�m sure we�ve felt revulsion when vandals strike a local church or cemetery � this is a similar example for the Indian people.

The �stalks� or �heads� of wheat framing the designs was also used on a U.S. coin from 1909 to 1958, hardly a unique design element.

The pheasant holds some promise if the rendition doesn�t look like a fat, short-tailed pen-raised bird flying in space. Something along the line of the pheasant, our state bird, bursting forth from a typical South Dakota landscape would have been vastly superior. With the input from the citizens of South Dakota I�m sure we would have had some really terrific designs for the state quarter of which we could have been truly proud.

In another news release published in Numisiatic News the Rounds� administration seemed proud that the South Dakota State quarter �committee� reviewed 50 design options. Another state recently selected its design after reviewing 8,000 design entries from its citizens. South Dakota being a less populated state could not expect that type of response; but, I�m sure there would nevertheless be enthusiastic design submittals.

A South Dakota Commemorative State Quarter Design Project should elicit designs to represent our multi-cultural population, diverse landscape, our past and present. What a myriad of themes could be used as a motif that would symbolize South Dakota on the nation�s currency.

We�ve been known as the Coyote State and the Sunshine State. We have majestic scenery (Badlands, the Needles, river views, buttes, etc.), unique sites (Corn Palace, Homestake � longest operating gold mine in the U.S., etc.), historic events (early stratospheric balloon flight, the Germans from Russia who in a scant six years made the area the �breadbasket of the world,� etc.).

We have a state flower, a state tree, prehistoric creatures from when the area was an inland sea, dinosaurs, mammoths, a state sport (a rodeoing scene would be interesting). It would be easy to go on and on with ideas for a motif. But I�ll let the citizens of South Dakota do that.

In closing I�d again urge Gov. Rounds to do the right thing and solicit designs from citizens of this great state.

Respectfully,

Robert R. Maisch

Mobridge

Grateful for local feedback

To the editor:

I want to thank the people of Clay County who met with my staff assistant, Erik Nelson, during his recent outreach day in Vermillion and Wakonda. Erik has updated me on the information and feedback that he received from Clay County citizens.

Erik had the opportunity to meet with a variety of business and community leaders during his day in Clay County. Erik started his day in Wakonda holding traveling office hours at the Community Cafe. He then met with officials from the various school, town, and county organizations in Vermillion and Wakonda. Finally, Erik concluded his day in Clay County by attending, on my behalf, the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce & Development Company annual banquet.

My staff�s outreach days help me maintain communication with local communities regarding their ongoing development and growth and keep me informed of any issues of concern that they are dealing with. Again, I thank everyone who shared their concerns during these meetings. As always, feel free to contact my office toll free at 1-800-537-0025.

Sincerely,

Tim Johnson

United States Senate

Thanks, lifesavers

To the editor:

Every three seconds, someone needs blood. Donated blood from volunteers is the only way Community Blood Bank and Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center can make sure it�s there when it�s needed. Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center and Community Blood Bank of Sioux Falls would like to thank all those who made a donation during the Community Blood Drive held on Jan. 26.

Seventeen units of blood were collected during the drive, which means at least 51 seriously ill patients will be helped right here at home. Over the past seven blood drives hosted by First Dakota National Bank and Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center 128 units of blood have been contributed. Great job!

Community Blood Bank of Sioux Falls is the sole and exclusive supplier of blood and blood products to Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center and 26 hospitals in southwest Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and northwest Iowa. Your donations help ensure and adequate supply of blood is always available.

From all of us at Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center and Community Blood Bank, thank you for helping save lives!

Sincerely,

Max Andersen,

Laboratory Manager

Sioux Valley Vermillion

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