South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, June 27, 2013

Rally survey incentive all in fun

Know your customers. That’s sound advice in any business.

As the Sturgis motorcycle rally becomes more like a business, the city of Sturgis wants to know more about the people who come to the city’s annual event.

As anyone who has observed the rally for a number of years will tell you: Bikers come in all flavors, and few of them fit anyone’s preconceived ideas of what a biker is.

The Sturgis City Council approved spending $26,000 to survey rally-goers to dig a little deeper into who attends the most famous motorcycle in the world.

Mainly the information the survey will gather will help the city’s new sponsor agent, Legends Marketing, sell the rally to new sponsors. More sponsors will mean more revenue to the city to offset the cost of hosting the biggest motorcycle rally in the United States, if not the world.

Previous surveys have offered a commemorative rally pin to rally-goers who provide information about themselves. This year, the city is considering having the survey-takers wear T-shirts that say, “Want a free drink? Ask me how.”

Sturgis knows this much about their customers: They are (A) motorcycle enthusiasts, aka bikers, who, apparently, (B) like free beer.

Not every biker likes beer, but certainly those who agree to complete the survey will meet the attributes of (A) and (B).

The requirements of a scientific survey are that at least 1,600 people are interviewed. That’s a lot of beer.

Let’s face it, rally-goers have a lot more on their minds than taking part in a survey. The Sturgis rally is all in fun, or it wouldn’t attract several hundred thousand people every year, so Sturgis can be forgiven if the incentive for completing their survey also is all in fun.

The incentive for agreeing to be surveyed may raise some eyebrows, but the reasons behind Sturgis interviewing as many rally-goers as possible is good marketing. Know who your customers are and potential rally sponsors will become more interested. It’s a long-term benefit to the city to have this valuable information in hand.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, June 26, 2013

Seek more equitable tax plan

The difficult work seems to be done, but the hard switch to more fairly tax farm and ranch land still looms in South Dakota.

In this case, “fair” means a tax increase for the ag sector. It’s time to look at the full picture for farmers and fix the astronomical difference that exists between what they pay in property taxes and what others pay in taxes for their homes and businesses.

Here’s some background:

* Lawmakers rewrote rules for assessing the value of agriculture land in 2008. The change directed county assessors to stop using sale prices to determine taxable value.

Instead, a formula that included productivity, including yields and prices, would determine land values. The new law included limits, so despite farm income jumping, assessed values grew more slowly.

* In 2009, lawmakers locked in agriculture at 18.45 percent of the local share to pay for education. That move had the opposite outcome of what was intended.

Assessed property values grew, levies went down while businesses and homeowners were paying higher tax rates because they were seeing little or no growth in property values.

* That leaves our state’s agriculture land, worth $61.1 billion, being taxed as if the value was $27.1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the South Dakota Department of Revenue.

South Dakota has done the work to classify ag land differently, but it is time to acknowledge that landowners get a huge break. That needs to be reviewed.

We all know that ag is South Dakota’s backbone industry, both economically and historically. Our entire state has benefited with stability during the recession, thanks to farmers. We also know there are good arguments on the other side of this issue.

But the reason for property taxes is to fund local government services, some of which are woefully short of money. Property taxes could help fix education funding, and myriad bad roads and bridges in our counties and townships.

Those are just two examples of the needs that would benefit everyone in the state.

We have the answers. We just need to implement the plans.

Even a small change would make a huge difference for the good of our state.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, June 23, 2013

Pierre schools show more funding not needed

Rob Monson, executive director of the South Dakota Association of School Administrators, said last week education is in a crisis as he and other officials urged lawmakers to boost school funding.

With all due respect to educators in the K-12 system, the math does not add up, as we see it – schools are certainly not in a crisis if the Pierre School District is an example. Although our local district ranks in the bottom nine for spending on students, at $6,585, it still manages to produce some of the finest graduates in the state.

In an interview with the Capital Journal late last year, Pierre School District Superintendent Kelly Glodt said of all the AA schools, Pierre has the lowest percentage of students who need remediation when they go to college and the highest percentage of students who get college degrees.

Though school administrators might shudder at our conclusions, we believe that the data from the Pierre district underscores the argument many taxpayers make that money isn’t the only factor in creating better educational opportunities for South Dakota students.

If money magically made schools better, students from the Elk Mountain School District near Edgemont, would have to be the best in the whole state and do more than four times as well as Pierre students – that district spends $28,384 per student, according to numbers from the South Dakota Department of Education. But clearly four times the spending doesn’t add up to four times the performance

Studies have shown little correlation between funding and student success. It is mind-boggling to think that Pierre’s $6,585 in spending per student is considered one of the lowest, when it could go a long way toward paying a year’s tuition at many universities. We believe if Pierre can stretch some of the lowest per student funding in the state into success, other school districts should be able to do the same.

If education is in crisis, it is not because of lack of funding.

School districts should re-do the math on spending and student achievement; then attack the problem differently.

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