An opt-out vote in West Central School District could help avoid cuts for programs

HARTFORD, S.D. (KSFY) - In less than two weeks voters in the West Central school district will decide whether to approve a property tax increase through an opt-out to provide the school with an additional $400,000 a year for four years.

Students and some staff are nervous about what could happen to their school if this opt-out does not pass. The theater department could potentially be cut, as well as athletics. The school plans to eliminate the gymnastics program and three middle school coaches if voters say no.

Kim Marcell, the theater director, says students are devastated.

"What really shocks me and the shocks the kids about theater is we have built this up," she said. "I counted today; we had over 3,200 people attend our shows just in my four years here."

The opt-out is broken up into three categories: owner, commercial and agricultural land.

For a homeowner with $100,000 of taxable value on their property will pay an additional $62.50 a year. Agricultural land will pay around $30 less than that.

Even if 60% of the voters support the program, the school will still need to borrow from their capital outlay fund.

"The cost of operating has continued to rise," Brad Berens, superintendent at West Central, said. "So, when you take a rise in expenditures, cost of operations, with a very flat revenue source and a very flat spending habit. It just gets very difficult to fund at the right levels."

West Central School District would not be alone in asking for an opt-out. There are around 40% of public high schools that have opted-out across the state.

The school district is ranked 141st out of 150 public schools for the amount they spend on each student.

The opt-out goes to a public vote on May 15th.