Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

Thank you to everyone who offered support both financial and otherwise after yesterday's email. If you're still looking for ways to help support local news and ensure Sioux Falls Simplified is here to stay, you can find more information here.

Also, there is kind of a lot of school news this week.

But before you let your eyes glaze over, let me remind you that we're mere days away from a school board election in which two people will be elected to make decisions that impact 24,000 students and hundreds of millions of tax dollars.

You'll also find a new use for Snapchat, a school board election survival guide and an update on the downtown Sioux Steel development.

And now, news:


Teachers will see more money next fall, but union set to go 10 years without negotiating salaries

Simplified: Sioux Falls school board members approved a plan to spend an additional $1.3 million on salaries next year. Meanwhile, the local union leader says some teachers are dissatisfied that they're set to go a decade without full salary schedule negotiations.

Why it matters: Sioux Falls has among the lowest first-year teacher pay in the area, nearly $10,000 less than Brandon Valley School District's starting salary.

  • The vote Monday night bumps the starting salary to $41,000 and adjusts the salary schedule across the board.
  • It's an effort to recruit teachers – and speech language pathologists, who will also see a higher base pay to help fill the seven open full-time positions that have as of Monday seen zero applicants, Business Manager Todd Vik said.
  • But though the raise is important, teachers are still set to go a decade without re-negotiating salaries, union president Tim Eckart said.

Learn more about the negotiation process, the history and what happens next.


Sioux Falls uses Snapchat to urge young people to vaccinate

Simplified: The city is in the midst of a $100,000 public health marketing campaign aimed at dispelling misinformation and sharing facts about the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the ways they're reaching people? Snapchat.

Why it matters: About 2 in 5 Sioux Falls residents has been vaccinated, which means there's a ways to go to hit vaccination targets set by state and federal governments.

  • City efforts go beyond Snapchat. They're also using multilingual billboards and other social media marketing to share facts about the vaccine.
  • The city is also working with hospitals in town to be in lock-step on messaging, said Sandy Frentz, public health manager with the city health department.
  • This campaign also comes as demand for vaccines has slowed, Frentz said.
"We know that there's going to be a handful of people that don't care how many facts you give them, they're not going to vaccinate," she said. "Let's take the folks that are trying to make their decision, and give them the tools they need to hopefully make the decision to vaccinate."

Learn more on how the city is tracking the campaign's success, messages they're sending.


This new Baltic group aims to help bring businesses to town

This is a paid piece from the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance

Simplified: As Baltic sees more people moving to town, city leaders are working to form a group to bring more businesses, too. It's called "Build Baltic," and while its still determining focus areas and goals, it'll function as a hybrid economic development council and chamber of commerce, officials say.

Why it matters: Homes are popping up like daisies in Baltic in recent years, and Mayor Tracy Petersen estimates the latest census data will show the population hitting 1,400.

  • With that residential growth is a desire to bring in more businesses as well as help those already established in town.
  • The new Build Baltic group will be led by a yet-to-be-determined board of directors working to keep economic development efforts moving in the same direction.
"We're growing in (residential areas) in leaps and bounds," Petersen said. "We just need to catch up with our business and commercial growth."

Learn more about growth in Baltic, the new group and next steps.


Your guide to the Sioux Falls school board election

Simplified: Voters will choose two people to lead the Sioux Falls School District in the May 18 election. We've met the candidates. Now, it's time to make a choice.

Why it matters: The five-member Sioux Falls school board oversees a more than $270 million annual budget, and decisions impact more than 1,600 teachers and 24,000 students.

  • The board members elected will also be part of redistricting at the elementary level – i.e., deciding where your kid will go to school – and will oversee the continued rollout of a $190 million bond to update and build new school buildings.
  • School board elections have historically seen low turnout, especially in years like this one where they're not paired with city elections. That means only about 4 percent of voters typically decide the people making these big decisions that affect the community at large.

How to vote

  • Step 1: Decide who to vote for. This will help.
  • Step 2: Grab your ID
  • Step 3: Go to the nearest polling place to you* (any one will do) sometime May 18 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. You can also vote early at the Instructional Planning Center.
  • Step 4: Vote
  • Step 5: Feel good about yourself for engaging in the democratic process.

*If you need a ride to the polls and want to vote early, Sioux Area Metro is offering free rides to the Instructional Planning Center through May 17.

Stuff to watch:

  • Art. Sculptures for the downtown Sioux Falls SculptureWalk will be installed Saturday.
  • School hallways. Middle and high schoolers across Sioux Falls will be less crowded as new buildings open this fall. Roosevelt will see the most dramatic difference with 921 fewer students.
  • Phillips Avenue. The city released a survey to see what other features the public wants to see on the downtown main drag.
  • Online learning. Sioux Falls schools have final enrollment for the 2021-22 Virtual Academy, and between third through eighth grade there are 82 students participating.


Sioux Steel looks for restart on downtown redevelopment, tax-increment financing

Simplified: City Council last February approved tax-increment financing for plans to redevelop the old Sioux Steel site downtown. Then, a pandemic hit, and the project pressed pause. Now, ready to restart, the developers are asking the city to restart the TIF as well.

Why it matters: The development will bring office space, condos, retail, restaurants and a parking ramp to what's now being called The Steel District.

  • All told, it's expected to be a more than $200 million project, said Jake Quasney, executive vice president of development for Lloyd Companies, the project's developer.
  • Tax-increment financing, aka TIF, (explained in-depth here) is, essentially, a tool the city has to make it easier for developers to build new buildings.
  • Once a TIF is approved, the clock starts ticking down to its expiration, which meant Lloyd Companies essentially lost a year of potential tax savings.
  • That means, to gain that back, the city has to close the existing TIF and start a new one.
"All items related to the boundaries of the TIF, the project plan and the actual TIF request would remain the same," Dustin Powers, community development coordinator for the City of Sioux Falls, told councilors Tuesday afternoon.

Learn more on next steps and the project timeline here.


More than 1,000 nurses get free car washes during appreciation event

This is a paid piece from Silverstar Car Wash

Simplified: Silverstar celebrated National Nurses Week earlier this month by giving away more than 1,000 free car washes to area nurses. That's about five times the amount given away in last year's event, and it comes just days after an event offering free washes to more than 900 area teachers.

Why it matters: All told, that's more than $34,000 worth of car washes, Regional Manager Andrea Vetos said.

  • The last year was a tough one on nurses, to say the least, and Vetos said Silverstar was excited to be able to give back in this way.
  • This isn't the first year they've given away free washes to nurses, but it's definitely the biggest response.
"I think we did a few hundred in previous years, so when I pulled up the total this past weekend, I was definitely blown away by the response," Vetos said.

Learn more about Silverstar's recent give-back efforts.


What I'm falling for this week:

Reach out

What story do you want to see simplified? Falling for something local? Send any news tips, attaboys, missed typos or gardening tips to megan@sfsimplified.com.

Thank you

Thank you to Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors, including Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, Selah Space and Silverstar Car Wash! When you support them, you're also supporting Sioux Falls Simplified.


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