A majority of Tea residents voted "yes" but state law says districts need a 60-percent super majority to approve a school bond.
Supporters of the multimillion dollar plan to expand the Tea elementary school and build a performing arts center fell just two votes short of that threshold Tuesday night.
Several growing school districts have recently struggled to get the 60-percent super majority needed for large building projects. However, those struggles are nothing new. The law has been on the books in South Dakota since 1923.
"It's been that way ever since and it's caused some school districts some issues where they've fallen short by a number of votes that would fit on a hand," Sioux Falls bond attorney Todd Meierhenry said.
Meierhenry is a nationally-recognized bond attorney who has advised many South Dakota school districts on bond issues and votes. He says the South Dakota Legislature changed the law to require a super majority for large building projects in 1923 because at the time several schools were consolidating and a 60 percent vote was also needed for consolidation.
"Once the school district consolidated and they needed to build a new school (they asked) why is the school vote for the bond issue not 60 percent when our consolidation vote was 60 percent," Meierhenry said.
The state law has remained that way for 91 years affecting school bond issues for decades.
"I think the theory is if you're going to bind future generations and future taxpayers that you should have more than just a majority. That's the argument for it. Whether one way is right or the other way is right I'll leave that to the legislature," Meierhenry said.
Since the super majority is a state statute the legislature could change the law at any time. However, lawmakers haven't made any recent attempts to modify the law.