Commissioners approve $500,000 opt-out

Recently a number of South Dakota counties have been pursuing tax freeze opt-outs with the Haakon County Board of Commissioners following suit.

Citing an increase in the cost of fuel and other expenditures combined with revenues not keeping up with those costs the commissioners approved a three-year $500,000 opt-out. After the three years the board hopes that the TransCanada Keysotne XL Pipeline revenues will be flowing into their coffers.

In an effort to keep the taxes low the board members, since 1995, have not taken the consumer price index increase allowed by the state. They have typically just taken the percentage of growth increase of Haakon County, if there was one. The consumer price index increase varies each year but generally runs between two and three percent. The consumer price index is an inflation factor figured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. South Dakota counties can use three percent or the CPI, whichever is less. It was below two percent, just three times since 1997 figures. In 2000 it was 1.57 percent in 2004 1.6 percent and 2011 it was zero.

The county receives 20 percent of the total taxes levied in the county. The rest goes to the school districts, fire districts, cities, and a water district.

The funds created by the opt-out would go into the general fund to be used for all county areas. A majority of the funds could be used in the highway department. The department has not crushed gravel for a couple of years so those stock piles need to be replenished. Another factor for the highway department is the rising cost of fuel. In the past 10 years their fuel costs have increased three-fold due to the rising fuel prices.

Residents of Haakon County have the option of referring the opt-out to a vote. A petition signed by at least five percent of the registered voters in Haakon County has to be submitted to the auditor's office within 20 days of the first publication of the notice to opt-out.

The vote must then take place prior to October 1. If the opt-out fails to pass, the board has the option of referring the measure to a vote again, as long as it is done before the October 1 deadline.

Since the South Dakota state legislature enacted the tax freeze in 1995, 33 of the 66 counties have approached an opt-out, some multiple times.

Mellette County was the first, in 1996. to pass a resolution to opt-out of the tax freeze. The voters defeated the proposed $200,000 the commissioners wanted.

They came back the next year and asked for $100,000. The voters passed the resolution. Brown and Day counties passed resolutions in 1997 for $450,000 and $320,536, respectively. Both counties rescinded their resolutions.

Voters defeated opt-out resolutions for Kingsbury, $150,000, Lyman, $130,000 for secondary roads, McPherson, $450,000, Sully, $472,763.

Marshall County voters approved a $175,000 opt-out resolution that did not specify an ending date.

In 1998, Day County came back to the voters with a proposed $293,757 opt-out and McPherson County with $142,470, both were defeated.

That same year Hyde County asked the voters to approve a $400,000 opt-out. It was defeated with three-quarters of the voters saying no.

Jerauld County, proposed two figures. The first was $50,000 for the general fund and $4,000 for secondary roads.

Tripp County commissioners asked for just $5,300.

Butte County was the sole county to approve an opt-out resolution. Their request for $348,359 was declined.

Jones County asked the voters in 2000 to approve a $20,000 opt-out that was slated for secondary roads.

That same year Minnehaha County commissioners requested $1.15 million in funds.

Brown County came back for another try in 2001. They asked for $1.35 million for five years, but the request was defeated.

Minnehaha asked for $500,000 in 2001.

Pennington County's request for $188,200, with no time limit was never referred to a vote, so automatically went into effect.

Yankton County asked for two amounts in 2001. For a building fund they requested $300,000 and for secondary roads $50,000.

A third try wasn't the charm for Brown County in 2003 as they asked residents for $750,000 for five years.

Neighboring Jackson County rescinded their 2003 five year, $100,000 request.

Stanley County residents approved a request of $160,000 for 20 years. The request was in conjuntion with Hughes County for a building fund.

Brule County voters turned down their commissioners request in 2004 for a 20 year, $200,000 opt-out. Jerauld County voters did the same for a five year, $150,000 opt-out. Jackson County's request for a $100,000 opt-out for five years, was never referred to a vote.

From 2005 until the present the majority of opt-out requests have never been referred to a vote. Out of the 27 requests since 2005, 19 were not referred. Of the remaining nine, six were defeated and two passed.

In 2005 Minnehaha County's request for $260,000 for 20 years was not referred to a vote.

The year 2006 saw three counties with opt-out requests that were never voted upon. Corson County asked for $100,000 for 10 years, Minnehaha $1,625 million for 20 years, and Tripp County's $5,000 for 20 years was earmarked for secondary roads.

Four counties had opt-outs that never went to a vote in 2007. Dewey County was $215,000 for 10 years, Jerauld County, $150,000 for five years, Tripp County , $10,000 for 50 years, and Turner County $900,000 for five years.

Hughs and Jerauld counties' requests for 2009 were not voted upon in 2008; while Marshall and Mellette both saw defeats. Hughes County requested $815,000 for 20 years. It was for a new jail facility. Jerauld County requested another $150,000 for five years. Marshall County asked for $650,000 for 10 years and Mellette County was $150,000 for five years.

Only one of 2009's six requests went to vote, where it met defeat. Roberts County voters declined their board's request of $500,000 for five years. Going into effect without a vote were Charles Mix's request of $14,950 for secondary record for 10 years, Jackson County, $150,000, five years, Jerauld County $6,000 for five years for secondary roads, McCook, $300,000 for five years, and Potter County, $260,000 for 10 years.

The year 2010 saw a mixed bag of not going to a vote, passing and defeats for eight counties.

Marshall County residents referred a $850,000, 15 year opt-out to vote. It was voted down in June by just 83 votes. The commission turned around and brought the request to a vote in September where it passed by 59 votes.

Sanborn County's five year request of $350,000 for roads passed by just five votes. Brown County asked for $850,000 for five years and was turned down. Also taking a defeat was Roberts County's request of $500,000 for five years.

Opt-outs that were not taken to a vote include Aurora County's $400,000, five year request, Beadle County's two-year, $300,000 request, Union County's $500,000 for seven years and Kingsbury County's seven-year, $300,000 request.

Voter turnout for elections in most cases was in the 20 to 30 percent range. The highest was 47.7 percent in a 2008 election. The lowest was in 2003 and was 17 percent where just 91 people decided the opt-out's fate.