Is Kristi Noem taking the right approach to school lunch?

Kristi Noem is attempting to roll back some of the school lunch regulations that went into effect last year. She seems to generally support the effort to get kids to eat healthier, but she thinks the regulations have gone too far and are causing some kids to go without enough to eat. (Click here to see Noem’s legislation.)

We’ve covered this with a short news story and an editorial. You can also watch a video below. What do you think of her approach?

Does Mitchell really have higher property taxes than the rest of the state?

At last night’s Mitchell City Council meeting, an oft-repeated claim was made about Mitchell supposedly having the highest or among the highest property taxes in the state:

Roger Musick, CEO of Innovative Systems, addressed the council Monday and spoke in favor of the proposal. Musick said a city administrator in the city’s government could help reduce the city’s property tax rates, which are among the highest in the state for similar-sized cities.

“I think it’s time for a change,” he said. “We’ve tried it for 100-plus years this way, and the result is taxes that are too high.”

I’ve heard that claim repeatedly since I began working here in 2003, and I did a story on it in 2007 to check the validity of the claim. I found back then that Mitchell’s property tax rate per $1,000 of valuation was actually the third-highest among the state’s largest cities. I also found that the issue was much more complex than many people might have guessed. Brookings, for example, had all kinds of city-owned businesses — including the hospital and the local telecommunications provider — that brought in extra revenue and reduced the burden on property tax payers. Other cities didn’t have that extra revenue.

I hope to have a reporter check again soon on the claim about Mitchell’s high property tax rates, since it’s now being used in support of a proposal to add a city administrator to city government.

In the meantime, in case you’re curious, here’s my story from April 21, 2007:

Wide gap in city property tax rates

Huron has highest in state; Mitchell 3rd

The Daily Republic

The property tax rates payable this year to South Dakota’s 10 largest cities vary widely, from a low of $2.61 per $1,000 of valuation in Brookings to a high of $10.788 in Huron.

Why the large gap? Experts in taxation and public finance cite two main factors: differences in property values from city to city, and the funding that cities get from other sources besides property taxes.

The alternate funding is the easier of the two explanations to understand.

Take Brookings, for example, which has an unusually high number of what are called “business-type” activities. Martin Guindon, the state’s auditor general, said the money Brookings pulls in from those activities may help drive down the city’s property tax rate.

“That’s probably one of the bigger factors, I think,” Guindon said.

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Meet the next senator from South Dakota

Why is this man smiling? He’s looking into the future and seeing suddenly smooth water and clear skies all the way to the U.S. Senate.

It wasn’t long ago that South Dakota Democrats were tingling with excitement over the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Sure, Tim Johnson, who’s been the rock of the party these past few years and a dependable leader for decades, is retiring. But the Democrats had his son, Brendan, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, as a possible candidate. They also had Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a former congresswoman. Even Mike Huether, the accomplished mayor of Sioux Falls, was talked about as a potential Senate hopeful. Any one of those three would have been a viable, respected challenger to the presumed Republican candidate, Mike Rounds.

And then there were hints of trouble on the Republican side. Some thought U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, who ousted Herseth Sandlin, might challenge Rounds in a primary.

Things were looking pretty darn hopeful for the Democrats.

Then, suddenly, over a span of weeks, Herseth Sandlin announced she won’t run. Brendan Johnson faded away, apparently not wanting to jump into politics at this precise moment. Huether, as far as I know, hasn’t ruled it out but hasn’t expressed a lot of interest, either.

Meanwhile, Rick Weiland jumped into the race on the Democratic side. (Remember him? He’s that guy who lost that race against somebody that one year way back.) And yesterday, Kristi Noem announced she will run for re-election to the House rather than challenge Rounds in a Senate primary.

What does it all mean? It means that as I write this, Mike Rounds’ election to the U.S. Senate is as close to a foregone conclusion as conclusions get in politics. And if that happens, it means South Dakota Democrats, who’ve long claimed congressional officeholders as at least a shred of something resembling political success in the state, won’t have even that anymore.

The Democrats desperately need somebody to ride onto the field of battle and rally the troops. Otherwise, they’re looking at a situation beginning in January 2015 in which they might be completely locked out of statewide and congressional offices, and still have an embarrassingly small number of legislative seats. It’ll be as close to literal one-party rule as South Dakota’s ever had.

Is there anybody out there who can save the Democrats? Anybody?