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Dr. Ben Jones talks to residents in Union Center about a proposed split in the Meade 46-1 School District.
Photo by Gary Matthews
Dr. Ben Jones talks to residents in Union Center about a proposed split in the Meade 46-1 School District.

Dr. Ben Jones from SD Dept of Education talks to rural residents about proposed district split


Gary Matthews - September 11, 2019

STURGIS, S.D. – The Meade 46-1 School Board met in special session last night at the new Central Meade County School in Union Center.

The topic of the special hearing – a proposal to split the district in two – with the rural areas of Union Center and Enning being their own district.

Dr. Ben Jones, head of the South Dakota Department of Education, was on hand to give the board insight of what would happen should the district split.

He says because the new rural district would not be a growing district, it would more than likely see a growing deficit after a couple of years.

"It creates a position where the numbers look good for a year or two, but beating inflation over time in a district that's not growing and the current legal structure, you're gonna hit deficits in year three and four."

Dr. Jones say to make that up would mean higher taxes in both districts. Right now he doesn’t have an answer, but doesn’t recommend a separation of districts.

"I don't know what the answer is, but you certainly have a board that is passionate and engaged about this and with so much participation of the residents of this district, I think a better plan can be found."

The idea of splitting away from the Meade 46-1 District came on the heels of three new members who were elected to the school board from the rural areas. They have been vocal about their concerns of underfunding of the rural schools and worry about possible closure.

The last time a new school district was formed in South Dakota was in 2002 when Tea split from the Lennox district. Dr. Jones says that split was favorable at the time because Lincoln County was the fastest growing in the state and there was certain growth within the district.

The Meade 46-1 School Board took no action last night, but the proposal is expected to be further discussed at next month’s meeting.



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