Lincoln Public Schools: Highlights of 6/13 Lincoln Board of Education budget work session, meeting

Lincoln Public Schools:  Highlights of 6/13 Lincoln Board of Education budget work session, meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a budget work session and a regular meeting on Tuesday, June 13 at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next meeting Tuesday, June 27 at 6 p.m.

Highlights of 6/13 Lincoln Board of Education budget work session:

Preliminary Budget for 2017-18

Here are highlights of the preliminary 2017-18 budget for Lincoln Public Schools presented Tuesday. At this point, the Lincoln Board of Education will gather community feedback and input over the next months, further discuss the budget and aim to approve the final LPS budget in August. 

The 2017-18 preliminary budget for Lincoln Public Schools is very student-focused and addresses a variety of factors:
  • Providing appropriate staffing, services, supplies and resources to address significant growth in LPS student enrollment. LPS estimates an increase of 950 more students for 2017-18 –bringing total enrollment to almost 42,000 students. LPS served almost 41,000 students this year, an increase of 12 percent or 4,450 students over the last five years.  The 2017-2018 school year will mark the fifth straight year of growth greater than 850 students each year – every year.  
  • Addressing the growing complexity of the demographics and needs of LPS students: specifically addressing mental health needs, early childhood, special education and more.
Other highlights:
  • Officials recommend a slightly lower – essentially flat – tax rate for the coming school year. The 2017-18 preliminary budget for LPS totals $420.8 million – a 4.6 percent increase over the previous year. Last year, the LPS budget increased 5.95 percent to keep pace with the growing student population and growing student needs.
  • Lincoln is a vibrant growing city with new housing developments in all quadrants of the city. The preliminary budget continues to focus on providing continued quality education, a long-term investment in our community, our businesses, our families, our students.
  • According to the most recent statistics, LPS ranked 228 out of 245 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending – spending $10,842 per pupil compared to the state average of $11,901.
  •  The 2017-18 preliminary budget is funded by several revenue streams including: property taxes (LPS estimates property tax valuation will increase about 9 percent this year), and state aid to education (anticipated at $126.7 million, a very slight increase of $271,324 over last year). 

 Possible additional funding provided under preliminary budget: 

  • Providing help to classrooms and schools by staffing for growth: added teachers and staffing for regular education, special education, early childhood, English Language Learners (refugees and immigrants); added counselors, school social workers and nurses.

  • Added support for academic interventions for students.
  • Expansion of early childhood.
  • New operational costs allocated to opening the new Marilyn Moore Middle School.
  • Support necessary for continuation of the instructional technology plan.
  • To address labor shortages, transportation bonuses available to bus drivers (sign-on bonus of $500 for new bus drivers; $500 for any driver who finishes the entire school year).
  • An additional wheelchair accessible bus.
  • Additional positions: principal for LPS focus programs; additional director for elementary instruction; additional support for The Career Academy; additional hiring supervisor for Human Resources.
  • Negotiated salary increases of 3.2 percent – the second-year of a two-year contract.
Comments from Board members included:
  • Matt Schulte criticized the proposed General Fund tax levy for taking advantage of what he called a windfall of increased valuation and “spending just because we can find a way to use it….This is spending misaligned with community resources. At what point are we going to say enough is enough?”
  • Kathy Danek pointed out that the school district levies wisely to weather the inevitable ups and downs of school funding. “When property tax revenue increases – as in this year – state aid will be reduced in the following year. We now assume that we need to allocate for growth going into the future.”
  • Barb Baier stressed, “This is not a Christmas gift kind of budget, this is an essentials-only kind of budget.” She warned that “slashing of public education can deeply damage an educational system…Here in Nebraska we have a lot good things going for us…One of the best ones is a good educational system…We think about the investment in our future…I am supportive of this budget. I feel as though we are getting value…We take seriously when the public asks us to be good stewards of their money.”
  • Connie Duncan said she believes LPS “thinks things through, and are very thoughtful; we make sure we are spending our money wisely.”
  • Lanny Boswell noted that the school district has the lowest tax rate levied in the school district in 50 years. “I believe this budget addresses the real needs of students, and does so in a way that we operate according to the rules we are given.”
  • Annie Mumgaard said: “Each community has to decide how they are going to invest in their children. We are deciding to best invest in our children, in our future…I believe we are doing a good job.”
  • Don Mayhew said he believes it is important to set a levy reflective of LPS growth, as well as changes that improve teaching and learning – such as all-day kindergarten, instructional technology and more. He explained: “When I’m looking at the budget, I have three things in mind: 1. What are the community priorities, what kind of town do we want to live in? 2. What effect do our decisions have on taxpayers? 3. Are the dollars we have – being spent well? I think some people only consider the second question, and if you only look at the effect on taxpayers, then that is an incomplete picture... I am very supportive of this budget, because I think it does an excellent job of the three things I consider.”
Community input
* Community input is valued:  Two Community Budget Forums are scheduled in June, which will both include a budget presentation as well as opportunities for comments and questions:
  • Tuesday, June 27, 5-6 p.m., LPS District Office, 5905 O St.
  • Thursday, June 29, 7-8 p.m., Lincoln North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd
The Lincoln Board of Education has an additional work session planned for budget discussion at 5 p.m. July 11 at District Office.  In addition, a public hearing for the 2017-18 LPS budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, August 8, at District Office.

Budget book and work session materials located at:

Highlights of 6/13 Lincoln Board of Education regular meeting

Administrative evaluations, contracts

The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday considered approval of the annual evaluation and contract for Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel, as well as contracts for the top administrators at LPS. 

Proposed base annual salaries for the coming school year:

  • Steve Joel: $317,239
  • Jane Stavem, associate superintendent for Instruction: $222,274
  • Liz Standish, associate superintendent for Business Affairs: $209,359
  • Eric Weber, associate superintendent for Human Resources: $209,359
  • John Neal, assistant superintendent for General Administration and Governmental Relations, $183,525
Highlights of the proposed superintendent evaluation include:
  • Successful completion of the initial phases of updated LPS Strategic Plan.
  • Successful adoption of the school district’s action plan based on the results of the Special Education review from last year.
  • Some affirmation and some reservation about the goal of reaching 90 percent graduation rate by 2019, but generally pleased about the work.
  • Positive, strong relationships and communication with Board members.
  • “In summary, the Board recognizes and appreciates Dr. Joel’s excellent work as our superintendent, and the Board looks forward to continuing its strong partnership in service to Lincoln’s children and our community.”

The Board will vote final approval for the superintendent evaluation and all the contracts on June 27.

New Business/Human Resources platform considered

The Board of Education considered a contract that would create a new platform for Business and Human Resources functions over the course of the next three years: called the Enterprise Resource Planning Project (ERP).

This new $6.5 million platform would replace the AS 400 Financial/HR system.  The move will involve considerable work, but moving to a new data system for LPS Business and HR functions will eliminate many of the current stand-alone manual spreadsheet recording functions, which now require significant data input and manual processes.  In addition, a new system will provide more functionality needed by the school district both now and in the future. 

“This past system lasted 30 years, oh my gosh, we wrung every scrap of value out of the old system,” Board member Don Mayhew said.  “Now it’s time to move on, it’s time to modernize…to leverage modern technology...This will result in changes that result in time savings, making us more efficient…There is a deliberate quality to our process….this will happen on a good timeline….I’m sure this is something that will be done very well.”

This is software that provides for the back office functions that support a school district:  accounting, payroll, benefits, staffing, budgeting, finance tracking and projects, employee self-service, etc.

The software will collect, store, manage, process, interpret and report data.  All finance and many HR functions will occur through the new system, replacing what currently functions through the AS 400.  The data in the ERP will be a new centralized source where functions within the system can talk to each other. 

Major financing would come from the Depreciation Fund. The Board will vote final approval on June 27.

Elementary Boundary proposed change

The Board considered a proposed elementary school boundary change focused on growth in the Firethorn area near 84th Street and Pioneers Boulevard, new development that would leave some single lots located within two different elementary attendance areas (Morley and Pyrtle). 

To eliminate neighborhood homes and single lots being located within two different elementary attendance areas and the attendant confusion about the proper school attendance area, a change is proposed: Beginning with the 2017-18 school year and continuing until further modified, the Morley Elementary School and the Pyrtle Elementary School attendance boundaries be modified as: Having the Morley boundary concludes at 84th street, and the Pyrtle attendance area runs along 84th and Pioneers.

The Board will vote final approval on June 27.

Board considers new Transportation Plan

Each spring a transportation plan is prepared for the following school year, reviewing and considering proposed changes in bus routes.  

Major proposed changes for next school year include:

  • Add special education education transportation to the new Marilyn Moore Middle School.
  • Additional Early Childhood bus runs to Cavett, Elliott and Wysong elementary schools.
  • Additional runs for Scott Middle School.

The Board will vote final approval on June 27.

Educating homeless students

The Board discussed submission of the McKinney-Vento Grant application for approximately $44,000 with the final allocation to be determined by the state of Nebraska and dependent upon grants awarded to other applicants. This grant requires a 100 percent match from Title 1. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the primary piece of federal legislation designed to address the problems that homeless children and youth have faced in enrolling, attending and succeeding in school. 

The LPS Homeless Outreach Advocate works with families experiencing homelessness to arrange transportation services for children to attend school and works with families to provide other supports that create a more stable environment for children experiencing homelessness. LPS will use funds received through the McKinney-Vento Act to continue to support the salary of the Homeless Outreach Advocate and to pay transportation costs for homeless children to attend school.  

The Board will vote final approval on June 27.

LPS policy

The Board considered policy changes for the wellness policy and several changes for Board Operating Procedures 

One proposed change for Operating Procedures included the creation of a Board Code of Conduct to “clarify mission, values and principles, and connects them to standards of conduct.” The proposal reads as follows:

Lincoln Public Schools adopts the following code of conduct for its school board members:

  • To recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a board meeting;
  • To abide by and not undermine policies and decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes;
  • To attend all scheduled board meetings unless excused, and become informed concerning the issues to be considered at those meetings;
  • To render all decisions based on the available facts and independent judgment, and refuse to surrender that judgment to individuals, special interests or partisan political groups;
  • To work with other board members to establish effective board policies and to delegate authority for the administration of the schools to the superintendent;
  • To communicate with the superintendent and administration in an appropriate and timely manner to ensure that appropriate materials are available for board discussion;
  • To be informed about current educational issues by individual study and through participation in programs providing needed information, such as those sponsored by the state and national school boards associations;
  • To support and respect the employment of those persons best qualified to serve as school staff, and insist on a regular and impartial evaluation of all staff;
  • To attend board leadership sessions as directed;
  • To avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest;
  • To clearly indicate that comments and opinions expressed do not represent the board or district, except when designated by the board president;
  • To take no private action that might compromise the board or administration and to respect the confidentiality of information from executive or closed sessions and information that is privileged or confidential under applicable law; and
  • To remember always that the primary concern of all board members is the educational welfare of all students attending the Lincoln Public Schools, while being fiscally accountable to the community.

Board members had several questions on the various proposed policy changes for Board Operating procedures, and staff will bring back these policies with some suggested alterations at the June 27 meeting.

Refunding approved for 2009 bond series

LPS issued $100 million in general obligation school bonds in 2009, the second series issued for funding a comprehensive ten-year facilities improvement plan.  Bond principal and interest are scheduled to be repaid through January, 2039.   The current bond market may allow for an advanced refunding at a reduced interest rate, resulting in a reduction of debt service payable. 

The Board Tuesday voted for LPS staff to work with the school district’s financial advisor (Ameritas Investment Corp.), bond counsel (Gilmore & Bell) and general counsel (Perry, Guthery, Haase & Gessford) to finalize refunding if and when the school district decides to proceed. 

Indian Education program  

The Lincoln Public Schools Indian Education program will provide support to Native American students in grades PK-12 in the 2017-18 school year, students enrolled in all schools across LPS representing about 60 tribes. The funding from federal grants specifically for Native American students is $138,292, and decisions regarding the use of these funds are made in consultation with the Native American Advisory Committee. The school district has received federal funds for services for Native American students since the mid-1980’s. 

The Board finalized approval Tuesday for continuing this support.  The U.S. Department of Education provides funds to fulfill the federal government’s responsibility for providing programs that serve Indian children of the highest quality and provide for the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children. The purpose of this program is to support American Indian and Alaska Native students in meeting the same challenging state student academic achievement standards as all other students.

Community Learning Center agreements   

The Board approved partnering organizations for the Community Learning Center sites in schools throughout LPS:  Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln/Lancaster County, Cedars Youth Services, Family Service Association, Lincoln Housing Authority, Lincoln Parks & Recreation, Malone Community Center, Nebraskans for Civic Reform, North Pointe Community Church, Northeast Family Center, Willard Community Center, and YMCA of Lincoln. These organizations provide services to CLCs at a total expenditure of $1,045,992. 

Newly annexed property

The Board assigned school attendance areas to property newly annexed in the city of Lincoln.  Lincoln has annexed a parcel of land, which automatically brings this property into the district of Lincoln Public Schools.  Grandview Estates 1st Addition, Annexation Ordinance #20483, proposed attendance areas for 2017-18 school year: Wysong Elementary School, Moore Middle School and Lincoln Southeast High School.

Food purchases

The Board approved several major food purchases for the coming school year:

  • Purchase of $950,000 in fresh fruits and vegetables from Greenberg Fruit Co.
  • Purchase of almost $3 million in shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen food from various vendors.

Staff Celebration

The Lincoln Board of Education recognized Michelle Welch, Lincoln Public Schools Wellness Coordinator, named one of the Top 25 in the nation for Health Promotion Professionals by the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA).

Published: June 13, 2017, Updated: June 13, 2017