As the teachers, administrators, and staff of the Rapid City School District welcome students back to school and, together, look ahead to the coming school year, it is time for us to also look ahead—to the future of public education in our state.
What is our vision for the future of our public schools? What quality of education do we want for our children, grandchildren, and neighbors? How can we set the school district and those who work for it up for success, thereby setting our children up for success?
As we set our minds to these questions and continue the work of advocating for our schools, consider the following points about how we currently fund education.
- Funding for education is based on taxing the value of property owned, that is how we choose to measure wealth.
- Owner occupied properties are taxed at a higher rate than agricultural properties. That means that the owner of a piece of owner-occupied property pays more property tax than the owner of a piece of agricultural property of the same value. For 2015 the maximum tax levies for school funding were set at, per thousand dollars of valuation, one dollar and seventy-eight and two tenths cents for agricultural properties and four dollars and twenty-five and two tenths cents owner-occupied properties. Owner occupies properties are paying nearly three times the amount of taxes as an agricultural property of the same value—and that unequitable ratio always stays the same if taxes increase or decrease.
- When we consider the amount that people of school districts with mostly of owner-occupied properties, like Rapid City, pay in taxes compared to those with largely agricultural property, the amount is staggering. We are paying more, not because our property is more valuable, but simply because it is owner-occupied.
There has to be a way to solve this inequity in tax rates. If agricultural real estate were taxed at the same rate as owner-occupied we would increase the funding available for education statewide.
When we give our children strong education, we give them—and our community—a strong future. What do you think that we should do towards high-quality education in the future? What is your vision for education in South Dakota and how do you think we can get there?