September 27, 2004
Once again I am writing a letter to be published in your newspaper, and so I thank you for allowing this forum of communication to the residents of Haakon County.
I would like to briefly mention two issues that will be on the November ballot and to ask local taxpayers to help keep our school’s revenues from being depleted any further.
The first is Constitutional Amendment B, which in essence obligates your local district to fund food and transportation services to school age children who are not enrolled in public school. Some of the key points to keep in mind regarding this amendment are that local school districts already provide, by law, the textbooks that may be requested by families who opt not to enroll in the public system. This amendment, if passed, could force the local taxpayer to provide bussing services or to pay mileage comparable to the distance that those children would travel to attend the public school. It would also mandate public schools to provide reimbursement for food costs incurred by families while privately educating their children. It is a parental choice to participate in the public education system or not. Our tax dollars are strained enough trying to provide for the students who are enrolled in public classes; we cannot afford to subsidize payments to those who choose to privately educate their children.
The second issue is Initiated Measure I, which is the exemption of food for taxing purposes. Governor Rounds, when visiting Philip this summer, indicated that nearly $42,000,000 is collected by the state with the tax on food. Of that revenue, 34% is given to school districts based on their average daily membership (enrollment). If this revenue is lost, some other form of revenue replacement will need to be found. While the current tax on food is fair, and is paid equally by all those who spend dollars on food, the issue is driven and supported by those who want to help the underprivileged. It is worthy to note however, that people who qualify for poverty level status (annual income under $28,000 based on a family of four) are eligible for refunds on these taxes at the end of the year. Therefore, average citizens might get away from paying the tax at the local grocer, but who will be helping them appeal to Pierre when lawmakers are forced to implement an income tax or a higher property tax on South Dakota residents later, when they find out the state cannot function without this lost revenue? Will the tax burden be equally distributed then?
Voters should understand that a yes vote on these two amendments would cost the revenues of our already burdened district to suffer substantial loss. It may also bring unpleasant forms of tax revenue to the forefront in the near future.
(verified by phone)