Opt-Out

Voters are shown signing in for ballots at City Hall for the Yankton School District opt-out Tuesday. For audio, visit www.yankton.net.

It seems that the third time is a charm for the Yankton School District.

Opt-out supporters were at the Yankton County Government Center eagerly awaiting results for most of the evening. By the end, there was some crying and lots of hugging among supporters in celebration of the win for the Yankton School District and its students.

The unofficial numbers were:

• 1,965 Yes votes at 54%

• 1,676 No votes at 46%

• Total voter turnout was 3,641 or 26.6 %

Results for the individual polling places were:

• Yankton City Hall at 416 Walnut St. — YES: 368; NO: 475

• Fire Station #2 at 201 West 23rd St. — YES: 346, NO: 646

• The Yankton School Administration Building — YES: 154; NO: 119

• Absentee ballots — YES: 1,088; NO: 436

There were no over-vote or under-vote ballots cast.

The request was for a maximum annual sum not to exceed $1,850,000 annually for four years, beginning with 2020 property taxes, and payable in the year 2021. Each year, the exact amount of the additional tax levied is to be determined by the YSD school board. Also, the annual additional amount levied may be less that the requested $1,850,000.

On hearing the news, YSD Superintendent Wayne Kindle was at first too emotional to talk, amid smiles and congratulations.

“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “We have spent a number of years working on this.”

Historically, Yankton has not been an easy place to win an opt-out vote. The last two opt-out votes initiated by YSD, May 24, 2011, and February 29, 2012, both failed decidedly, and the vote to fund the Summit Activities Center was fraught with contention and followed by an expensive legal battle after the vote.

“We’ve done a good job of listening the past several years, based on the two opt-outs that failed prior to this one,” Kindle said. “We listened to the matter of using reserves, bringing down the insurance fund, making good use of capital outlay to the extent that we can. I just think we really did a sincere job of listening to the public and we are going to continue to do that.”

However, the recent vote to fund an aquatic center to replace Yankton’s old Memorial Pool may have been an indication that attitudes towards opt-outs are changing.

“The first thing I want to do is just thank everyone that went out and voted and I want to thank all of the volunteers,” Kindle said. “It was a close vote and we are really happy with the win. For those that didn’t support it, we appreciate them voting.”

YSD plans to continue to demonstrate that it will continue to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money, he said.

“We are going to provide the best education that we can for our kids here in Yankton,” Kindle said. “So we are excited about this and look forward to tomorrow.”

He said the school district will look at the budget each year and determine how much of an extra levy will be needed.

“If there’s an opportunity for us not to take as much we are certainly going to look at that,” he said. “We are just really pleased that the majority of people really took a good look at this and decided that we’ve done a good job as a district and they’re going to continue to support the efforts of the district and the programming for the kids here in Yankton.”

Where the money will be spent has been indicated in the newest school district plan, and by Kindle and YSD business Manager Jason Bietz in the many speeches he gave over the last two months informing people about the opt-out.

The next battle will likely be in Pierre over a proposed 0% increase to school funding when state law calls for rate of inflation or 3%, whichever is less.

“We are not going to let up in Pierre,” Kindle said. “We have three legislators that understand that, and I really believe they are  going to work to get us some money back here in Yankton.

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