Highlights of the 5/22 Lincoln Board of Education Budget Work Session and Regular Board Meeting

The Lincoln Board of Education held a budget work session and a regular meeting on Tuesday, May 22, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St. The Board will hold its next regular meeting on June 12 at 6 p.m.

Board of Education Budget Work Session

A Lincoln Public Schools 2018-19 preliminary budget – discussed by the Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday – provides a proposed one-cent reduction in the property tax levy, as well as funding for ongoing and significant student growth, considerable increases in security measures, and supports for students with a mounting list of needs.

In addition, LPS officials estimate almost another half-cent in tax levy reductions due to decreased levies in additional LPS funds – the Bond Fund and the Qualified Capital Purpose Fund – so the total property tax levy for LPS is predicted to decrease by almost a cent and a half.

As the Board of Education continues to develop the budget they are considering:

  • Dramatic growth in student numbers and complexity of student needs: LPS grew by about 5,000 students over the last five years and is expected to grow by 500 additional students next year.
  • The need to address security in our schools with proposed increases in school resource officers, threat assessment, mental health supports, funding for preventative measures that come from Community Learning Centers – as well as an additional security coordinator and funding to ensure a consistent standard for security measures at the entrances of every school in the district.
  • Salary and benefit increases for 7,500 employees that will increase cost by about $8 million next year.

Despite significant student growth and security needs, the Board is seriously considering a one-cent reduction in the property tax levy for the coming year – an almost a cent and a half reduction factoring in the additional LPS Funds.

According to the most recent statistics, as prudent stewards of taxpayer money, LPS is one of the lowest spending school districts in the state for per-pupil costs and has been for decades. LPS ranks 227 out of 245 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending – spending $11,274 per pupil compared to the state average of $12,230.

LPS has a solid process for budget development. In the coming months the Board will establish priorities, develop a revenue budget to best meet those needs and have a thoughtful conversation with the community.  LPS uses a three-year forecasting and sustainability model – to manage and stabilize the swings in state funding revenue – anticipating state equalization aid will go back down again next year.

The 2018-19 preliminary expenditure budget for LPS totals about $443 million, a 5.34 percent increase over the previous year. That budget is funded by several revenue streams, including two major sources: property taxes (estimated to increase about 5.2 percent this year), and state aid to education (anticipated at about $20 million more than last year after remaining flat for the past three years).  

In the past month, the Board has reviewed about $22.6 million in increased needs and prioritized them, funding a preliminary $13.4 million of added needs – with a focus on the classroom. Tentatively funded are:

  • Providing help to classrooms and schools with: added teachers and staffing for regular education, special education, early childhood, English Language Learners (refugees and immigrants); added school counselors, social workers and health care workers.
  • Security measures that include school resource officers at middle schools, broadened threat assessment, mental health supports, funding for Community Learning Centers, an additional security coordinator and funding to ensure a standard for security measures at the entrances of every school in the district.
  • Funding for growth in additional areas such as instructional materials, technology needs, operations and transportation.

Board members offered feedback about the proposed budget during the work session:

  • Matt Schulte: “Property tax relief is exciting to see in this so thank you for the work you’ve done.”
  • Lanny Boswell: “First, I want to thank you for finding funding within the budget for the additional security measures beyond what is in the interlocal or joint public agency proposal. I appreciate that is recognized and prioritized in the proposal.”
  • Kathy Danek: “I’m concerned about the loss of revenue from sales tax impacting the state resources, which ultimately impacts us.”
  • And Barb Baier thanked LPS staff for its work on the proposed budget, in particular LPS Budget Director Shari Styskal, who is retiring at the end of June: “Thank you all for your work you do.”  

** The Lincoln Board of Education believes that high-quality public schools at a reasonable price bring tremendous value to our community.  The Board also stands unified with school districts across the state in supporting a more predictable, sustainable system for funding schools.

The full budget presentation can be viewed here.

Community budget conversation

LPS invites community members into the development process of the 2018-19 budget in a variety of ways.  Two Community Budget Forums are scheduled in June specifically for community questions, comments and feedback:

  • Budget Forum, 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, Board Room, LPS District Office.
  • Budget Forum, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, library media center, Lincoln Northeast High School, 2635 N. 63rd St.

A second Lincoln Board of Education work session is set for 4:30 p.m., June 26, at LPS District Office.  And a public hearing and budget forum are set for 6-6:45 p.m. on August 14 at LPS District Office.

Board of Education Regular Meeting

Additional security measures approved 4-1
Four of the five Lincoln Board members in attendance voted to approve an interlocal agreement that puts into place new measures that will strengthen security and safety at Lincoln Public Schools. The interlocal agreement adds six middle school resource officers, an additional threat-assessment officer, mental health support through an additional school social worker and additional therapist services, and sustained funding for Community Learning Centers.

The Lincoln City Council approved the agreement Monday and, as a result of both votes, the city and LPS are each committing $1.05 million to share the costs of providing protective, preventive and proactive services for Lincoln’s youth.  Funding would begin in September for the upcoming academic year. School resource officers could be in LPS middle schools as early as January 2019.

The Safe and Successful Kids interlocal agreement will support the same initiatives originally proposed in a Joint Public Agency, but will not create a new governmental entity. The Board and Council also approved a memorandum of understanding regarding roles and responsibilities of School Resource Offices and school staff in addressing student behavior.

Terms of the interlocal include:

  • A six-member Interlocal Board to include three members of the School Board, two members of the City Council and the Mayor.
  • The Interlocal Board will approve annual increases of up to 5 percent on the total $2.1 million agreement.

Board member Barb Baier was the only dissenting vote, citing concern about the increased presence of school resource officers in middle schools and the long-term sustainability of funding through the interlocal agreement: “I cannot in good faith make a promise to our community that may not have enough resources during the next economic downturn or property tax reform measure to be able to keep it. I will be voting against the proposed interlocal agreement.”

Other Board members voiced their support for the interlocal agreement before voting to approve it:

  • Connie Duncan: “It takes a village to raise a child. I would also add that it takes a village to make a proposal such as the Safe and Successful Kids proposal go through. I’m so proud of this board, our community and the City Council for their hard work and the many voices we have heard.”
  • Lanny Boswell: “There is still significant work in front of us, the City Council, the Interlocal Board and the community, and I invite and encourage our stakeholder groups to stay engaged in that work. We need and welcome your input. These are complex issues that require a multi-faceted approach.”
  • Kathy Danek: “In the end, it’s about a comprehensive approach to our community to address a situation. The Lincoln City Council, the mayor, the superintendent, LPS staff, the Lincoln Police Department and our school board entered into this journey looking for just that type of agreement.”
  • Matt Schulte appreciated changes made to the originally proposed interlocal agreement regarding its funding and oversight: “I believe that those three changes are creating a safe and successful schools program that will not be buffeted by the changing waves of local politics and will instead ensure the long-term viability of this program.”

Name change approved
The Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday approved a new name for the Yankee Hill high school program at 865 W. Burnham St. – now to be called the Yankee Hill Education Center.  The change aligns with the Don D. Sherrill Education Center and the Nuernberger Education Center, which are similar programs.

The Board approved:

  • Renewal of an agreement with United Way of Lincoln Lancaster County to provide LPS grant funds in the amount of $40,000 to support services provided at any of the current 26 Community Learning Center School sites.
  • Submission of a Bosch Community Fund grant for $25,000 that would fund middle school math and science teacher professional development on project-based learning, as well as purchase of equipment for middle schools to use in STEM field projects.
  • Submission of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant for $75,00 that would allow LPS to participate in a year-long community practice of other grantees, receive individualized coaching and technical assistance, receive National College Access Network membership and conference registration, and develop and improve measurement and practices that ensure systemic access to effective advising.  Schools that meet eligibility criteria include Lincoln High School, Lincoln North Star High School and Lincoln Northeast High School, though many grant projects will benefit all high schools.

Bids for Frozen Food
The Board voted to approve the purchases of about $3.4 million from several vendors to provide shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen food products for use by LPS Nutritional Services for all locations.

Wellness Update
A year ago, the Board approved a new wellness policy that reflected new federal health, physical activity, and nutrition requirements for schools.   A small group of LPS leaders met throughout the year to review data, receive feedback from staff and the community, and establish plans from 2018-2019.  The effort also included action steps from the Strategic Plan to expand plans to address mental health needs of students’ mental health and increase access to physical activity before, during and after school.

Michelle Welch, LPS wellness facilitator, shared an overview of the process this year and highlight of critical wellness data points, including the number of student physical activity during the day, mental health service requests, student fitness, meal time, and staff wellness activities.  The entire data set is available online on the LPS Wellness site, http://home.lps.org/wellness.

The Board recognized the many ways schools, teachers and administrators have developed creative ways to present lessons to students.  As an example, the Board highlighted a math teacher at Lincoln Southwest High School who used an original way of teaching statistics. Presenting were: Josh Males, curriculum specialist for mathematics at LPS; Ashli True, math teacher at Lincoln Southwest High School; and Southwest students Tyler Walvoord and Jordyn Fallick.

The Board also honored the top fundraising schools in this year’s BackPack Extra Mile Walk:  Maxey Elementary School, Lux Middle School and Lincoln East High School. Maxey raised more than $18,500; Lux raised more than $7,200; and East raised more than $8,600.

Public Comment
There were community members who came and spoke at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in the public comment section of the agenda. To watch public comment and the full Board meeting go to https://www.lps.org/about/board/.

Published: May 22, 2018, Updated: May 22, 2018