Groton voters approve $1.25M school district opt out

GROTON, S.D.(AberdeenInsider)- Two-thirds of Groton Area School District voters approved the school board’s decision to opt-out of the state’s property tax cap.

In a districtwide vote on Tuesday, April 9, voters approved the measure 567-275. In all, 33% of eligible voters cast ballots in the election, according to unofficial results from the district.

The Groton School Board approved a 10-year, $1.25 million opt out resolution earlier this year to avoid cuts within the school district budget.

The majority of voters were from Groton, approving the issue 424-128. Andover voters approved the measure 35-24, and Columbia voters agreed with the issue 53-20. Bristol voters, however, were 103-55 against the opt out.

School administrators and school board members have said that without being able to collect the extra amount in property taxes, the district will have to make staff and/or programming cuts.

They want to offset what they say are financial losses caused by the state rewriting the education funding formula in 2016. That equalized revenues for each South Dakota school district’s general fund. It resulted in Groton losing money from utilities within the district, including a peaking plant, wind turbines and James Valley Telecommunications.

Groton is facing a deficit of about $850,000 this school year, Superintendent Joe Schwan has previously said.

The amount local government entities like school districts can increase property tax collections from one year to the next is capped at 3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, plus growth. An opt out is when a local government “opts-out” of those state-imposed limits.