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Avon opt-out vote narrowly defeated in election

AVON — The Avon School District's bid for a $300,000 property tax opt-out was dashed Tuesday night.

A total of 340 Avon voters took the polls to decide on the opt-out, with 187 (55 percent) voting against and 153 (45 percent) voting in favor. With 811 registered voters, the voter turnout came in at 41.9 percent, and a simple majority was needed to pass the opt-out.

The vote, held Tuesday at the Avon Fire Hall, was held after a petition from citizens referred the action that would have enacted an opt-out on property taxes starting in 2020.

"Since 2011, we've been deficit spending, and slowly but surely, we have been spending our reserves and capital outlay," Avon Superintendent Tom Culver said prior to the vote.

The school district currently does not have an opt-out, a measure that is currently used by 66 of the 149 school districts in the state. Culver said the $300,000 tax opt-out was to be used to help retain teachers and class offerings and also to allow the capital outlay fund to continue to grow for potential future construction projects, such as a new roof for the school, a building addition and improved technology.

The estimated impact of the opt-out meant that ag land valued at $150,000 would result in an additional $154 annually in taxes, while a house valued at $150,000 would have resulted in an additional $344 annually in taxes.

Avon has 232 students enrolled in grades K-12 during the 2018-19 school year, and expects that number to continue to decline, potentially as low as 207 students in 2022-23. The district had 254 students as recently as the 2016-17 school year. The district receives approximately $5,000 of state aid per student, meaning a decrease in student population hurts the

In South Dakota, an opt-out means a local government has made a decision to opt out of state-imposed limits on increases in annual property tax revenue. An opt-out allows local governments to collect more taxes per year from local taxpayers than the state limits would allow.

As of now, the Avon School District is budgeted to use the full capital outlay flexibility each year to supplement the general fund budget. In 2017-18, Avon's capital outlay fund was at $565,327, which the school district is allowed to use up to 45 percent of that for flexibility spending.

Of the overall general fund budget, nearly 76 percent goes to salaries and benefits for staff. The school also has reduced its band teacher position to a half-time position, and now shares a shop teacher position with Tripp-Delmont on a half-time basis in order to save money.

"We've also been using all of the capital outlay flexibility, and we're afraid if we keep using all of that capital outlay money and having our reserves shrink, we won't be able to do as much building repairs," Culver said.

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