By Curt Nettinga
HOT SPRINGS – The Fall River County Commission voted 4-1 to send an amended letter to S.D. Governor Dennis Daugaard, requesting that the governor declare an emergency and issue an executive order allowing the commission to freeze valuations at the previous year’s valuations.
While the original letter, written by and submitted to the commissioners by property owner Orval Frahm would have requested an across-the-board freeze of valuations, unless reassessment took the valuations lower, the amended version will limit the freeze to ag properties only. The original letter failed 3-2 on a roll call vote.
Commissioner Mike Ortner suggested then that the commission amend the request to only ag property, resulting in the 4-1 majority.
Fall River County Auditor Sue Ganje provided a document that showed 68 property owners had been received in support of the property valuation freeze.
“We want to make a point to let the governor know that there is a problem out here,” Frahm told the commission prior to any vote being taken. “I don’t believe that he is aware of the depth of the tax problem.”
At first, the commission took the opinion that it had no legal authority to make a request to freeze valuations, but Commissioner Joe Falkenburg argued that all the commission was doing was making a request to call attention to the problem of ag-land property valuations exceeding the land’s actual worth.
Commission chair Deb Russell noted that the county has committed to spending a large amount of money to conduct a county-wide, three-year reassessment – which is 2/3 complete – to be in compliance and get correct valuations.
“We would be throwing all of that away if we freeze valuations at earlier levels,” she said.
Audience member Susan Henderson said that the commission is required to implement legislative orders, but what the landowners are asking it to do is to state “This is not working,” to the governor. “I think you need to send this to every legislator as well,” Henderson added.
“This letter puts the blame squarely on the governor’s office,” Frahm said, “where it belongs.”
Later in the meeting, the commission set aside April 22 to handle property-owners appeals. The Equalization Board, made up of representatives from Fall River County, the City of Hot Springs, as well as the three school districts in the county, will begin hearing the 42 total appeals filed as of April 6, on the afternoon of April 21, with the hopes that the remainder will be handled the following day.
Doug Kinniburgh, a local government administration with the Department of Transportation, visited with the commission on responsibilities regarding the bridge leading to Igloo.