Rapid City voters to decide fate of $190M school bond proposal

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The Rapid City School Board has voted to approve a resolution sending a proposed bond to election February 25, 2020.

The school board approved of the new bond plan by a 6-1 vote Monday night, passing the $190M bond proposal. Public input and board discussion prior to a vote emphasized the 25-year tax hike that would accompany the upgrades.

“The question is what happens in the year seven, or 2026 after the phase one bond is spent?” asked a speaker during the public comment. “Will the district come back and ask for phase two school bonds?”

Which if that were to happen, would stack taxes on taxes. Concern has already arisen over the addition of this bond so close to the passing of the bond to approve the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center upgrades.

As an alternative to a higher cost, 2nd vice president Kate Thomas suggested another way of affording the renovations that puts less responsibility on taxpayers.

“We do need these schools but the second part, the renovations, it’s not that they’re not needed, that’s not what I’m saying, but I think baby steps and through capital outlay we could pay for it,” said Thomas.

The majority of the board members agreed that the tax increase would be “uncomfortable” but overall say the need for upgrades is still there.

“We did reduce the amount of the bond because we feel like its a better amount and it’s more likely to pass and we really need this to pass,” said Christine Stephenson, board member. “There is no alternative.”

The district is planning dates for more engagement sessions and school tours to give the public first-hand experience with the infrastructure.

The board — urged voters to see it for themselves before making a final decision.

“If you walk the schools and you know, you’re like ‘it’s not that bad’, great, at least you were open minded and objective and we appreciate that,” said Brian Johnson, board member.

The new facilities plans makes changes to maintenance cost and building plans. What remains unchanged from the original proposal is the long term school closure list. Canyon Lake, Robbinsdale, Wilson, and Horace Mann are still slated to close.

The closure of Canyon Lake Elementary brought up more discussion Monday night, questioning what would happen with the land once the school is demolished.

A representative from the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands Research Project planted the question of what would happen to the school’s lands and if it would be potentially be considered for a land swap.

Earlier this year, the group began looking at the 1,200 acres of land between Mountain View Drive and Canyon lake Park that once belonged to the boarding school. Over time, the land has been divided up and re-purposed for different uses. Research project representatives says about 40 acres of that land has been found to have been used in violation of federal law.

RCAS Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon says there has not been any discussion yet as to what the property’s future may hold but she says the board has listened to a presentation from the research group to begin a discussion.

Also planned in the bond proposal are three elementary schools to be built for $29.7M each – Southwest or West area, Parkview or Southeast area, and at Vickie Powers Park.

Renovations planned at Pinedale, Meadowbrook, Knollwood, and Black Hawk would continue for a slightly lower price tag.

Voters have until February 25 to decide a yes or no.

Categories: Local News