Proposals for School & Fire Districts Affect District 6

Posted February 3rd, 2014 in Uncategorized by isaac

This year, I continue to serve on the Taxation Committee and Local Government committees. Bills dealing with these subjects are first read on the House floor and then are referred to the respective committee, which operates much like a school board or city council meeting. The sponsor and proponents come forward to describe the bill and persuade us why the law should be changed, and then opponents come forward and make their case against it. We then move on to questions, committee discussion, and action.

If the bill does not receive a favorable vote of the majority of the members on the committee, the bill is usually considered dead. But if it passes the committee, we send it to the House floor with a “Do Pass” recommendation, where it is debated again and every member of the house gets a chance to vote on it.

Both Rep. Herman Otten and I serve on the Local Government committee, and last week we heard House Bill 1087, which would allow Rural Fire Protection Districts to combine their annual elections with a city election, as long as the city council agrees to it. In addition, it authorizes registered South Dakota voters who lived in OR owned real estate inside the fire district to vote in the election. Previously, they had to live in AND own property within the district.

The goal is to increase voter turnout, awareness, and accountability for these elections, because fire districts serve a very important role, and the committee believed that this change would result in greater transparency, accountability, and cost savings. The committee passed the bill to the house floor with a vote of 7 yea, 0 nay.

On February 5th, a bill to modify the process by which school district boundaries can be changed by petition will be heard in the House Education committee. House Bill 1071 is sponsored by all three legislators from District 6, because it is an important issue for our school districts.

Because the state has a policy of open enrollment, you no longer need to change your school district boundary in order to send your child to a school in a different district. The right still exists for property owners to petition their property be reassigned to an adjacent one, if they are on the edge of two school districts.

I believe this is an important property right to preserve, because I believe fundamentally that property is owned by the owner, not rented to them by the government (an increasingly rare belief amongst elected officials, I realize).

However, I support this modification, because an issue has arisen where people have been embarking on organized campaigns to switch large areas of land to a different school district, which is greatly disruptive to the long term planning of our small school districts.

The law currently states that a boundary change must not exceed 2% of the taxable valuation of the district. But on the edges of rapidly growing cities like Tea and Sioux Falls, today’s deserted field could be a housing development next year. This bill would allow the future developed value of the land to be taken into consideration when determining whether the requested change would exceed 2% of the school district.

Hopefully, this will secure the spirit of the law and preserve school districts’ ability to plan for the future and meet the needs of the students in the high growth areas.

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