Compiled by the Office of Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine
SDCL 12-13-23 requires the Office of the
Secretary of State to prepare and distribute public information
concerning constitutional amendments, initiatives and referred
measures. This pamphlet is prepared by soliciting statements from
the proponents and opponents of amendments and measures.
The title, explanation and effect of a vote for each ballot question
were provided by the Attorney General. No other statements on this
pamphlet reflect the opinion of the State or the Attorney General.
The information was compiled by the Secretary of State as supplied
by the writers, was not verified by the Secretary of State and does
not reflect the position of the State regarding the legality or
effect of the amendments or measures. The Secretary of State does
not guarantee the accuracy of any claims made by the proponent or
opponent writers in this brochure.
Attorney General Explanation
School districts have a constitutional
right to use real property taxes to pay their expenses. On average,
about half of school funding comes from property taxes. If property
taxes are removed as a source of revenue for schools, the
Constitution requires that the Legislature find some other method of
funding public schools.
Amendment A would not eliminate property
taxes, but would prohibit using such taxes for public schools.
Amendment A contains no effective date. If
it is effective immediately, and the Legislature does not meet and
find an immediate alternative revenue source, then contract rights
may be violated. Property taxes for payment of existing school bonds
will probably not be affected.
Amendment A may conflict with Amendment F.
If both constitutional amendments pass and are found to conflict
with each other, one or both could be declared void.
A vote "Yes" will prohibit the use of
property taxes to fund public schools.
A vote "No" will leave the Constitution as it
Pro -- Constitutional Amendment A
Since 1972 SD taxpayers have complained about the tax system in
their state. Several initiated measures have been submitted to the
voters, but all have failed because of heavy resistance from the
Executive Branch, the Legislature and special interest groups.
Consequently, South Dakota is still in dire need of tax reform!
Several studies have confirmed the inequities and problems with our
tax system. A 1989-90 study, ordered by Gov. Michelson, found that
(1) property taxes are high, (2) property tax assessments are
unequal and unfair, (3) current tax sources are inequitable. The
findings and recommendations of this study were largely ignored.
Another study of the property tax problem is now being conducted
because of rapidly rising property assessments and tax bills.
Amendment A is designed to "jump start" tax reform by changing the
way education is funded. Currently approximately 62% of property tax
revenue is earmarked for Kindergarten-12 grade education. This heavy
reliance on property taxes has caused huge increases in property tax
bills to meet increased costs of education for the past 2 1/2
decades. And in spite of these increases, education is still not
properly funded; school are in disrepair, teachers receive the
lowest average salaries in the nation, and bond issues for buildings
or repairs are being voted down in many school districts.
Under section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution, the
Legislature has responsibility for funding education by "general
taxation" and therefore should initiate tax reform. An offer to
withdraw this initiative from the ballot was made to the last
Legislative session if serious tax reform was introduced and put to
a vote of the people. This offer was ignored and the Legislature
will not enact tax reform until required to do so by a vote of the
The taxpayers of SD need Legislative action on real tax
reform; not more studies of a known problem.
VOTE "YES" ON AMENDMENT A
Submitted by: David D. Ruff, 3040 Ridge Road, Spearfish, SD 57783.
Mr. Ruff is one of the sponsors of this initiative.
Con -- Constitutional Amendment A
Amendment A is an 11-word sentence that would create major problems
for South Dakota’s kids and our quality of education will suffer.
1. LOSS OF LOCAL CONTROL
If passed, virtually every dollar used to fund South Dakota’s
public schools will come from either the state or federal
government, and policy makers in Pierre and Washington, DC will
decide the revenue side of every school district’s budget. This will
lead to fewer opportunities for our young people at a time when they
need more communication, problem-solving and mathematical skills
than ever before.
2. PROPERTY TAXES WOULD NOT GO AWAY
Currently, local school districts receive an average of 62
percent of property taxes paid; cities, counties and special
districts receive the rest. Even if Amendment A were to pass,
property tax payers would still be paying a tax bill that would be
nearly 40 percent of its current total.
3. TAX CHAOS WILL RESULT
If passed, Amendment A would go into effect the day after the
state election canvass in December, 1998. Calculating taxes owed
would be chaotic, and potential lawsuits would tie up this question
in the courts for months or years.
4. LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL OF ALL SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
School bonds have been let under terms that they be repaid by
local property taxes. If property taxes are no longer available for
school purposes, serious questions will arise about how current
bonds will be repaid.
And since no local property taxes could be used to let bonds for
future construction projects, school districts would have to get
funding approval for each new construction project from the state
5. LOSS OF FEDERAL MATCHING FUNDS
Most federal school aid programs require local matching funds,
so there is a distinct possibility that some local programs will be
pared back or cut entirely. This could affect a variety of services
including special education and school lunch programs.
Amendment A deserves an "F." Vote NO on A.
Submitted by: Ray Trankle, Taxpayers
for Education and Common Sense, PO Box 1214, Pierre, SD 57501-1214.