Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Taxpayer Subsidized New Road For Meade County (think Sturgis) SD Annoys A Few Folks, And With Some Reason

     Can't say that I blame them.  Some residents of Meade County, South Dakota, are mad about a
The Proposed Road
Should Taxpayers Subsidize A Road That Misses Their Town Altogether?
(Map from Madville
proposed new road that will exit the Interstate (90) well east of town, cut north to a state highway and bypass the well-known community of Sturgis.  The source of the complaints?  That the proposed road will use Tax Increment Financing (TIF), a generous taxpayer subsidy, to come into being.  Can you see why a lot of Sturgis folks are mad? They're essentially being asked to subsidize a road that many feel will put them and their enterprises out of business.  

     At the heart of the debate is the very notion of TIF financing itself, a developmental "tool" that has been used in many places in South Dakota, often with skirmishes similar in style, if not intensity, to what's happening in Sturgis right now.  The anti-TIF folks have coalesced into an organization called Meade County Taxpayers For Responsible Government and sent off the following letters to local and state authorities.  They're self-explanatory and give contact information for readers who want to get engaged in this contest of competing community wills. Also, I invite supporters of the project to present their case here.

Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government
13108 Sunrise Place, Sturgis, SD 57785

February 5, 2015
Kevin J. Krull
Meade County State’s Attorney
1425 Sherman Street
Sturgis, SD 57785
Via Electronic Mail:
Dear Mr. Krull,
We are writing on behalf of the Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government
to express our serious concerns about the legality and appropriateness of the Meade
County Commission’s decision to spend up to $7,500 in public funds to influence the
outcome of the upcoming election regarding the establishment of a Tax Increment
Finance District (TIFD).
Recently, the County released a Q&A document that was very clearly in favor of the
TIFD, which has been proposed and promoted by the County Commissioners. A
document in the same vein would clearly be biased.
We are concerned about what constitutes “factual”, what is appropriate election
communication by elected officials with public funds, and wonder who is the final
decision-maker. Further, if we should object to the final document, are there remedial
actions available to our organization that can be taken to stop the Commissioners from
distributing their propaganda?
Please let us know as soon as possible your thoughts on this matter.
Gary Lippold Jane Murphy Garland Dobler
Cc: Marty Jackley, South Dakota State Attorney General

Jerry Derr, Human Resources Director, Meade County


Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government
13108 Sunrise Place, Sturgis, SD 57785

February 5, 2015
Andy Gerlach, Secretary
South Dakota Department of Revenue
445 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501 - 3185
Via Electronic Mail (
Dear Secretary Gerlach:
We are writing to express our concerns about the Tax Increment Finance District (TIFD)
proposed by Meade County Commissioners to pay for the controversial Sturgis Bypass
road. We are concerned that this TIFD is not being used as state statutes intended and
may not have been formed in accordance with state law.
As you are likely aware, the Commissioner’s proposed TIFD has been referred to Meade
County voters for their decision. We are seeking further information from your office to
help clarify the issues involved before voters go to the polls on March 3, 2015.
By way of background, the Commissioner’s TIFD covers 18% of the land in Meade
County. At 656.5 square miles, or over 420,000 acres, it could be the largest TIFD in
the United States. The Commissioner’s TIFD leverages the state maximum of 10% of
the county’s assessed value – over $200 million.
The Commissioners have produced no feasibility study, no comprehensive budget or
plan, no repayment schedule or financing plan, no transportation studies, and no
justification for the Bypass Road. The Commissioners exempted themselves from their
own TIFD policy that requires a developer to provide details about the specific project
costs, the level of private investment, and projected repayment schedules. The
Commissioners TIFD has no private developer and no evidence that the Bypass road will
result in any additional economic development whatsoever.
South Dakota has put in place laws regulating the creation of a district excessively large,
thus capturing revenue from areas that would have appreciated in value regardless of
TIFD designation. It appears that the Commission is doing just that by creating a
district that will disproportionately be impacted by reassessment of agricultural land
over the next several years. The Commission seems ready to capitalize on the statewide
assessment situation to increase short-term tax revenue to pay for the road.
The state requires that a TIFD meet 3 criteria; it is not more than 10% of the total
valuation of the county, not less than 25% of the district by area is considered blighted,
and the project will significantly benefit 100% of the district. As far as we can tell the
TIFD fails to meet two of these criterion.
There simply are not 175 sections of land within Meade County that are blighted due to
the absence of this bypass road. Further, the assertion that “the improvement of the
area is likely to enhance significantly the value of substantially all of the other real
property in the district” is ridiculous. How is there any way that building a road
between the Buffalo Chip and I-90 is going to enhance significantly the value of almost
700 square miles of rural land?
We are also concerned about the precedence this may set for other TIF districts in the
state and the aggregate potential impact on taxpayers and school funding. The TIFD
proposed by the Meade County Commissioners has no commercial or industrial
developer involved, and the area is not zoned commercial or industrial, so our
understanding is that this TIFD would be classified as “other” and have the
disadvantageous attributes associate with that classification.
On behalf of our citizen organization and the voters of Meade County, we ask that you
review the TIFD proposed by the Meade County Commission and let us know if you
determine it meets state specifications, if it is an appropriate size and scope for a TIFD,
and if it an appropriate way for a county to pay for a new road.
Gary Lippold Jane Murphy Garland Dobler
CC: Senator Gary Cammack
Representative Tom Brunner
Representative Dean Wink
Yvonne Taylor, Executive Director, South Dakota Municipal League

Blaise Emerson, Executive Director, Black Hills Council of Local Governments


  1. The need for a by-pass around Sturgis has been cussed and discussed for years. We attended a town meeting maybe 10 years ago in Sturgis where there were people from as far away as Bowman, ND commenting at the meeting the need for a by-pass during the Rally. These people were manning an ambulance on their way to Rapid City Hospital and it took and hour to get through Sturgis. One Doctor said "it is not if you will have a death, but when you have a death caused by the congestion of the Sturgis Rally". The state highway with Bakken truck traffic has to go right through town. We are far enough east of Sturgis that we use the New Underwood road to by-pass Sturgis. This rally traffic goes on for a month, not just a week. It is a mess. I think the State should have the gumption to shoulder the responsibility and put the by-pass in. The State made the attempt in Belle Fouche to help with truck traffic. The State should do the same for Sturgis. Just like Belle Fouche the road is too narrow for four lanes of trucks.

  2. Putting in the road where they want it is not going to ease the flow, it's going to create another bottleneck! It's going to direct traffic right to the middle of several rally camp grounds and to the concert venues. Sturgis will still be a mess and so will the interstate all the way to pleasant valley at exit 37

  3. Still it should bottleneck incoming traffic to the concerts, but the south bound should free up a little. they need to work through this one million coming to the next rally then it should slow down for the next few rallies.

  4. As a Meade County resident, $12million could be spent on bridges and maintaining the roads that we have. Why must we always throw money to a venue that lasts 4 weeks out of the year? I live here!!! Fix my road, the bridge, the New Underwood Road!! Why does the TIF district need to be 600 miles for a 10 mile road? Notice how it sneaks all the way up there to the Opal area where the proposed pipeline is supposed to go in?? Sick and tired of Meade County Commissioner Alan Aker and his dirty underhanded, up to no good, practices.