Deadwood told to provide more detail to state board about its historic preservation spending

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Deadwood’s historic preservation officer received thanks Friday for the gambling town’s decision to restore $50,000 to a grants program that helps other South Dakota communities.

But Kevin Kuchenbecker also was told, at length, to bring many more details along the next time he wants the South Dakota State Historical Society board of trustees to approve the city’s historic preservation budget.

Trustee Tom Hurlbert of Sioux Falls said there wasn’t nearly enough information in Kuchenbecker’s presentation to understand the many ways the money from gambling taxes and fees was being spread around. Hurlbert gave many examples, from retaining walls and rodeo to scholarships.

Board president Sean Flynn of Mitchell summarized Hurlbert’s comments: “Basically you’re looking for specificity in line items to connect them to the mission of preservation in Deadwood,” Flynn said.

Hurlbert, participating over a video connection, gave a thumbs up.

Kuchenbecker saw and heard the message. “As we move into 2022, I have no problem pulling some of that out and putting that in there,” he said.

Ted Spencer, the state’s historic preservation officer, said he hadn’t had a problem.

“If I do want more detail, I can easily pick up the phone and follow up with Kevin for more detail. But I think some of that detail that Tom’s referencing could probably be incorporated in the budget presentation to the board to help them understand that connection and where that fits,” Spencer said.

The trustees then voted unanimously to approve the $6.9 million budget for Deadwood.

Kuchenbecker had begun the presentation with this comment: “I’m going to start off saying 2021 has been a busy, busy year for Deadwood, a record setting year for tourism, and our gaming revenues are looking very strong. Visitation is up. Everything looks good in Deadwood.” But, he added, “Increasing gaming revenues doesn’t necessarily mean Deadwood’s historic preservation revenues are increasing proportionately.”

He showed a slide quoting the Deadwood exception in the South Dakota Constitution that says the entire net municipal proceeds from roulette, keno, craps, wagering on sporting events, card games and slot machines shall be dedicated to the historic restoration and preservation of Deadwood.

Then he showed a pie chart from 2020 gaming taxes and fees that had Deadwood receiving more than $6.5 million, state government getting nearly $7 million, and the remaining $1.17 million split between Lawrence County, the local school districts and other municipalities in the county.

Kuchenbecker said the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down Deadwood for part of 2020 led many of the gambling locations to reduce the number of devices they had. Yet their revenue went up as tourism bounced back this year.

One of the historic preservation programs that the Deadwood city government cut by half two years ago was grants to other cities. Kuchenbecker said $50,000 was added back for 2022, bringing the program up to $100,000 again.

He showed a slide that said the “Outside of Deadwood Grant Program” since 2001 had provided more than $3.9 million to 117 organizations for preservation projects throughout South Dakota.

The outside-Deadwood grants are separate from the $100,000 per year that state law requires the State Historical Society receive. State law also requires that Deadwood receive approval of its historic preservation budget from the trustees.

Last year, the trustees told Kuchenbecker that finding another $50,000 for the outside-Deadwood grants should be a priority if Deadwood received more than the $5.8 million budgeted.

“While we cut it, we made a promise to this board that we would look at it as our revenues went, and we found out where we were, and we did maintain that promise,” Kuchenbecker said.

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