CSP should pay county more money

Let’s get this out of the way up front: We love Custer State Park.
It isn’t called the crown jewel of the Black Hills for nothing. It’s a 70,000 acre playland of beauty that brings people from far and wide to the area, and is wonderful for us to have right here in our back yard. It’s a boon for the bottom line of many in terms of sales and sales tax dollars.
Custer County is not one of those for which it is a boon, however. In fact, it is becoming more and more of a financial drain. Did you know the county does not receive sales tax dollars? That means for the thousands and thousands of people who come to Custer County and the City of Custer during the course of the summer—many of whom are coming for the purpose of going to Custer State Park—and spend hundreds of dollars in the city, zero sales tax dollars are given to the county. So yes, Custer State Park absolutely benefits many entities. But not Custer County.
Custer County is a highly unique county in that it has so much land that is not taxed for a variety of reasons. Much of the land is government land, whether state or federal, and that land is not assessed and no property tax is paid. That means more of a tax burden on the privately-owned land in the county. The less land that is being taxed, the heavier the burden on those who do have land being taxed. When you factor in the cheaper taxes for those with agriculture designation, it’s an even heavier burden on the owner occupied classification in the county.
As you can read in the story on the front page of this week’s issue, the county spends a lot of money, either directly or indirectly, to assist people in the park. The Custer County Sheriff’s Office is constantly in the park attending to various crimes, car accidents and anything else that comes up during the course of a day. The same could be said with Custer County Search and Rescue, which spends many, many hours in the park, especially in the summer.
The use of the county roads was also brought up at the recent county commission meeting, as many visitors to the park come in and out of the park on Lame Johnny Road, LH Road, Lower French Creek Road, etc. That constant traffic does beat up the roads, and the taxpayers foot the bill. Granted, the park has started paying some money for the roads, and does give the county some money for law enforcement and fire protection (which also responds to many calls in the park) but it’s a pittance compared to how much time those entities are in the park.
We are in complete agreement with the county. Custer State Park should be appraised, and some sort of payment in lieu of taxes given to the county. It’s the right thing to do to pay its fair share of the services provided to the park—services that are basically provided for next to nothing, presently.

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