Rapid City looking at $250 million bond issues for school overhaul

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Rapid City school officials are considering a $250 million bond issue that would raise property taxes to fund a massive overhaul of the district’s facilities.

A task force is calling for the district to build five new schools, close three others and redraw district boundaries over the next three to six years. The group of administrators, school board members and residents formed last year to address the district’s aging infrastructure and growing student population, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Superintendent Lori Simon said it’s time for Rapid City to discuss how to handle its deteriorating schools because “doing nothing is not an option.”

The new facilities under the task force’s preliminary plan would cost roughly $180 million, in addition to the $70 million price tag to renovate six schools to make space for computer labs, open classrooms and security features.

The bond to finance the plan would likely mean a $2.37 tax increase for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value, according to officials. An owner of a home worth $100,000 could pay roughly $237 more in property taxes.

The task force is seeking input on the proposal from residents, who haven’t been asked to support a school bond issue in more than 45 years.

The group is expected to present a final recommendation to the school board in June. If approved, residents could vote on the issue by referendum.

School Board President Ron Riherd, who’s also a member of the task force, said no board members have voiced opposition to the proposal yet.

“We really don’t have any choice,” Riherd said. “We’ve got to do something, and the most intelligent thing we can do is try and get this bond issue passed.”