Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) will receive a little over $97 million dollars from Nebraska State Aid which is an increase of approximately $13.8 million dollars over last year. In addition, property valuations in Lincoln should result in an approximate increase of $4.8 million in property tax receipts over last year[i] including a heretofore unanticipated $1.2 million.[ii]
Given these facts, LIBA feels compelled to address three issues.
Strategic Planning: The 2013-2014 LPS budget allocates $250,000 for Strategic Planning. This is in addition to the $250,000 budgeted last year for the same purpose. We once again question the need to apportion an additional $250,000 toward reestablishing priorities previously identified through an extensive strategic planning process.
Community Learning Centers: LIBA still believes LPS should not allocate $500,000, building to $1.5 million dollars over three years, toward Community Learning Centers (CLC). Lea Ann Johnson, Director of the Community Learning Centers, met with the LIBA School Liaison Committee and indicated that they have enough cash reserve to cover all CLC costs for the 2013-2014 school year. Thus, the CLCs do not need funds this year. While CLC’s greatly benefit participating students a decrease in property taxes and the corresponding decrease in the cost of housing could have a greater positive impact on students and their families.
Unanticipated Increase in Property Tax Revenues: With the receipt of an unanticipated $1.2 million in property tax revenues both General Fund revenues and Educational Service Unit (ESU) revenues will increase. The ESU already has a projected beginning balance of $1.77 million and a projected ending balance of $1.81 million; therefore a reduction in the levy for both the General Fund and the ESU should be considered.
LIBA once again asks the Board to exercise caution. Personnel costs are LPS’ largest expense and one that increases most years. Recently the Education Committee of the Nebraska Legislature met to reexamine the school aid system and indicated a potential overhaul. The Chairperson of the committee, Senator Sullivan, went so far as to state that the committee was, to the extent possible, looking at a “clean slate.”[iii] With these changes on the horizon LIBA urges LPS to exercise caution and not depend exclusively on state aid; ensuring that current expenditures remain sustainable in the coming years. We believe the top funding priority must focus on educating children in the classroom.
LIBA urges you to provide property tax relief not just for homeowners but for commercial property owners who create jobs and are a vital force in Lincoln’s economy.
[i] LPS Amended Proposed Budget; Lincoln Public Schools; http://lps.org/about/board/meeting.html?id=4182
[ii] “Higher property valuations means more money for LPS;” Margaret Reist; Lincoln Journal Star; 23 August 2013; http://journalstar.com/news/local/education/higher-property-valuations-means-more-money-for-lps/article_3378db77-2c43-512f-a436-0ff6c3cc1ea9.html
[iii] “Lawmakers eye clean slate for overhaul of school aid;” Kevin O’Hanlon; Lincoln Journal Star; 19 June 2013; http://journalstar.com/legislature/lawmakers-eye-clean-slate-for-overhaul-of-school-aid/article_b2feb08d-3f6d-52a0-8d4a-fa577179be20.html