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Castlewood Rejects $8M School Improvement Plans; Minority Limits School Rebuild to Pre-Tornado Status Quo

After a tornado wrecked Castlewood’s school last May, the community rallied to make temporary learning space while the school rebuilds. Last week when the school board asked the public to take advantage of the repair time to expand and improve the facility with two bond measures, voters said no, the school will be fine as was, and we don’t want to pay more taxes:

The unofficial results sent by the school votes on the $6 million were 237 – YES and 183 – NO, and the $2 million were 159 – YES and 244 NO. The votes needed to reach 60% to be approved.

One bond for $6 million to finance school improvements includes gymnasium expansions, weight room expansions, stage expansions, classroom expansions, new classrooms, new restrooms, new locker rooms, locker room remodeling, and paying the cost of issuing the bonds.

An additional bond for $2 million was presented to finance school improvements, including a new large group instructional activity room, an expanded weight room, and a new entry lobby, and pay the cost of issuing the bonds [Steve Jurrens, “Castlewood School Rebuild and Expansion Bonds Voted Down,” KXLG, 2023.03.08].

The $6M bond would have added $106 per $100K of property value to annual property taxes; the $2M, another $35/$100K. Over 56% of voters supported doing three quarters of the proposed improvements, but the undemocratic 60% rule allowed a minority to thwart the will of the majority.

Insurance is paying to rebuild the Castlewood school as it was. But the minority has spoken: improving the Castlewood school isn’t worth the public dollar.


  1. Jake 2023-03-15 10:53

    Leave it up to SD GOP Republicans crying out “NO MORE taxes” to put that 60 % rule in place- nationally they are so in the minority in winning presidential elections that “minority rule” is secondary (if not primary) in importance to them.
    But then, they (GOP) make it all up by increasing “fees”, don’t they?

  2. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-15 13:49

    I’ve had some experience with school bond issues. It is important now, that school supporters in Castlewood immediately revise the issue and put it back on the ballot as soon as possible. The public voted for the 6 million bond with an impressive majority. Put it back on the ballot and let cooler heads prevail.

  3. larry kurtz 2023-03-15 14:10

    Bless their hearts. What God Hath Wrought telegraphs clearly to Castlewoodians.

  4. LCJ 2023-03-15 15:39

    Sorry, Jake a lot of rich dem farmers I know voted against the bond issue.
    Unfortunately the for the proponents, the home and ag 10% increases were mailed out one week before the vote. That kind of thing leaves a bad taste for a long time.
    It will be redone and approved eventually.
    Voter turnout was pretty low also.
    Gonna have to knock on more doors.

  5. LCJ 2023-03-15 15:48

    Sorry, Jake a lot of rich dem farmers I know voted against the bond issue.
    Unfortunately for the proponents, the home and ag 10% increases were mailed out one week before the vote. That kind of thing leaves a bad taste for a long time.
    It will be redone and approved eventually.
    Voter turnout was pretty low also.
    Gonna have to knock on more doors.

  6. Jake 2023-03-15 16:32

    LCJ, maybe so and you’re right on the timing. But many, many years ago as I was packing a petition to put a state income tax on the ballot I recall how amazed I was at the obstinance of so many in the AG community who hated the idea of an income tax! When i asked them how they paid their property taxes in the years their incomes sank horribly their eyes kinda glazed over. ALL taxes are paid from income (which itt seems-most of us want more of, right?) but if paying property taxes (which we all agree; both Ag and urban dwellers are too high) then if you have zero income (bad Ag years)-then you let your family suffer, eh?

    LCJ, you know whici political party pushed for that 60% rule, don’t you???!!!

  7. Edwin Arndt 2023-03-15 17:02

    I am now 79 years old and here in North Dakota the 60% rule has been part of
    the landscape for as long as I can remember. I think the 60% rule came about to
    keep the majority from taxing the living bejesus out of the minority. In many counties
    that have no larger cities or towns the property tax burden for schools can fall disproportionately
    on farmers. I know, I know, some will argue that farmers should be able to pay unlimited tax because
    of all the money they get from the government. But that is not totally correct.
    This can be a long argument.
    One note; all taxes are not paid from income. You are liable for property tax if you make
    money or if you make no money.

  8. Jake 2023-03-15 17:47

    Arlo, eventually tho, all taxes are paid from income. Think about it, even if someone else pays them for you at a tax sale, it comes from an income, correct? So, as someone recently told me, essentially we are “renting ” our domiciles and property that we “own” from the state, correct……?

  9. larry kurtz 2023-03-15 20:45

    In South Dakota local control is Republican control. A tornado hit her home town of Castlewood and Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem praised her god for sparing her campaign war chest because science karma chickens came home to roost where the governor is a climate change denier.

    Is this a great country or what?

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-03-15 22:14

    Well, what do they have to learn? If your LGBTQ get out of the state because your not Critical Race Theory is factual but divisive so it’s a no go. If you get pregnant at 15 because you won’t get taught sex ed in Castlewood you’ll have to grin and bear it. Contact Boebart for details. OR get your body to Minnesota then you can bare it when your 18. It’s an English thingy. I hate to drag this out but you’d better dress appropriately too. Good luck on education in Castlewood, I guess Ukranian Easter eggs would to corrupt and controversial also. Kristi’s got to realize how much of the German vote comes with Ukranian baggage.

  11. Algebra 2023-03-16 16:13

    Total population of the district : 1252
    Total number of households in the district: 479
    Total enrollment grades PK-12: 330
    average number of students per grade: 23.57
    Average capacity of a school bus: 48 adults (2 per seat) or 72 children (3 per seat)

    Castlewood is 16 miles from Watertown.

    I will leave the math about the number of buses needed, the fuel, maintenance and operator costs, to others

    plus, I don’t know the demographics of the school enrollment. How many of them are in high school vs how many of them are in PK-2?

    Maybe the voters of that district know more about what they are going to need than you do?

  12. larry kurtz 2023-03-16 16:33

    How are 65 county seats and their bureaucracies either conservative or sustainable? They’re not; but, it’s the way Republican cronyism and patronage built barricades to democracy by providing benefits of the public dole to those who say they deplore big gubmint in a state that hates poor people.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-16 17:17

    When it comes to schools in South Dakota the issue is always the State Aid formula. Compared to other states in the Midwest, South Dakotas State Aid to schools is paltry and stagnant. The state has never been in the forefront of school consolidation, Republicans considering it too much of a hot button issue. As small towns shrivel, school consolidation becomes inevitable. As with counties, South Dakota could get along well with many fewer school districts. The State would have to take the lead with this consolidation with a much more generous State Aid formula tied to student enrollment. Add a demographic (population density) factor if you must.

  14. grudznick 2023-03-16 17:45

    grudznick echos my close personal friend Lar. We need 30 counties, at the most, and 30 or 45 school districts.

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