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What are public notices?
Public notices are notifications to taxpayers and citizens, as established by state statutes or by order of a court. They are also sometimes referred to as "legal notices."

Why are they published in newspapers of ‘general circulation’?
Public notices must be actively disseminated to taxpayers and citizens who may be affected by the information contained in the notice. All government records are intended to be open and “available,” but only if people know where to search. The information in public notices is so essential to an informed citizenry that it needs to be published and made available where people will find it -- even if they’re not necessarily searching for it.

Shouldn’t public notices be placed on the internet?
They are. When notices are published in newspapers, they are also then posted onto the internet. If you search for ‘South Dakota public notices,’ one of the top results is this website, which strives to post every notice published in South Dakota newspapers. Individual newspapers also post notices to their individual websites and many also provide a link to this public notice website.

Couldn’t the government just do this itself?
A fundamental purpose of public notices is to help ensure that government is held accountable and that requires an independent third-party. Traditionally, for decades public notices are published in newspapers as that independent third-party — to create a verifiable record of the date they were published and show that the content met legal requirements. Without such verification, elected officials and the government entities would be accountable only to themselves.

Do people bother to read these?
In our most recent reader survey, only 10% of South Dakota users said they “never” read public notices. The survey also showed that South Dakotans are nearly identical to readers in other states in which 31 percent said they read public notices “frequently” and another 33 percent said they “sometimes” read the notices. Very importantly, the majority of respondents said public notices should be printed in newspapers and not simply placed on government websites.

Is this the best use of my tax dollars?
Yes. South Dakota newspapers are strong proponents of the three key requirements for open government — open records, open meetings and public notices. These are the citizens’ tools for reducing fraud, waste and abuse in their government, and in the long run they save taxpayer dollars. In South Dakota, the rates newspapers can charge for publishing public notices are set by the state legislature; the current rates were last established in the mid-1990s. The cost of publishing notices in newspapers represents such a very small amount that government entities rarely list it as a line item in their budgets.

In South Dakota, public notices must be published in a newspapers of general circulation within the county where the government unit or court is located.