Highlights of Lincoln Board of Education Budget Work Session

The Lincoln Board of Education held a budget work session on Tuesday, June 11, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St.  

Lincoln Board of Education Budget Work Session

The Lincoln Public Schools 2019-20 preliminary budget – discussed by the Lincoln Board of Education Tuesday – provides no increase in the current property tax levy while ensuring funds for continued student growth as well as funds to address the growing complexity of student needs necessary for them to learn.

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

  • Continued growth in student numbers: historic new highs for 2018-19 with 42,035 students, an increase of 275 students over the previous year – an anticipated 310 students more in the coming year – growth that represents an increase of nearly 3,000 students in five years and more than 8,000 students since 2008-09, an increase of nearly 24 percent in the past decade. Five LPS high schools now have enrollments topping 2,000, three have more than 2,200. 
  • The need to address growing student needs and supports – with proposed additions of counselors, social workers and health care workers, as well as continued security measures in our schools.
  • Salary and benefit increases for 7,500 employees that increase costs by about $10.4 million next school year.

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 224 out of 244 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending: $11,508 per pupil compared to the state average of $12,613.

Board President Lanny Boswell said he wanted to point out several trends: “Our enrollment and needs continue to grow …. Yet despite those growing needs, despite the cuts in state aid, we have still managed to put together a general fund budget that keeps the tax levy rate flat.”

Board member Barb Baier said “there are lots of things I like about this budget … I’m glad that we’re expanding early childhood … I’m glad we’re bringing more offerings in arts and physical education to behavioral skills programs … I’m glad we’re proactive in keeping classroom sizes down … I’m glad about the additional mental health supports for our students.”

Don Mayhew noted that the preliminary budget focuses on basic student needs with only a modest increase: “We’ve seen several years of incredible growth … It has slowed, but it is still incredible growth … And on top of that, the kids we have – get more expensive … This budget leaves millions of dollars in unmet needs on the table, while we are levying less than what we could … But the cold reality is that people are getting clobbered with valuations, and in this budget we address our greatest priorities, and serve our mission of educating children, and still find a way of providing property tax relief for our taxpayers.”

The 2019-20 preliminary expenditure budget for LPS totals about $458.7 million, an expenditure budget increase of 3.3 percent – or $14.8 million. 

That budget is funded by several revenue streams including: property taxes (estimated to increase by 6.5 percent, providing about $14.8 million more revenue than last year), and state aid to education (projected at $133 million, down $13.7 million compared to last year).  The preliminary budget also includes drawing $3.4 million from cash flow – about half of what the Board wisely set aside last year. Cash flow is a tool to stabilize swings in revenue through transfers into and out of cash flow with the goal of ensuring that programming and staffing decisions are sustainable over time.

In the past months the Board has reviewed about $18.6 million in identified needs, prioritized them and ultimately built a preliminary budget that left almost $4 million in needs – unfunded. Tentatively funded for the coming year are:

  • Support to classrooms and schools to keep up with continued, incremental growth, specifically adding teachers and staffing for regular education, special education and continued expansion of the early childhood program.
  • The addition of school counselors, social workers and health care workers – providing added support for emotional, physical and mental health needs.
  • Expansion at the behavioral skills schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels – with additional teachers.
  • Funding growth in additional areas such as instructional materials, technology needs, operations and additional transportation routes. 

Those LPS budget dollars come back into the community:

  • In total, employee salaries make up about 86.8 percent of LPS expenditures – and much of the money spent in salaries is reinvested back into the community.  The average gross monthly payroll is $25.5 million.
  • Much of the school bond tax money received by LPS goes back out to pay local architects, contractors and engineers. During the 2018-19 school year, LPS has spent an average of $780,000 each month on construction projects.  
  • Every dollar spent in the community is re-spent locally 2-4 more times. 

LPS has a solid process for budget development, using a three-year forecasting and sustainability model to manage and stabilize the swings in state funding revenue.  In the coming months the Board will continue to analyze needs district-wide, establish priorities, develop a revenue budget to best meet student needs – and have a thoughtful conversation with the community.  The largest budget line on the LPS budget consistently funds teachers and classroom instruction – prioritizing our students. 

** The Lincoln Board of Education believes that high-quality public schools at a reasonable price bring tremendous value to our community.  

Community budget conversation

LPS has a long-standing transparent, open process for budget development – inviting community members into the development of the 2019-20 budget in a variety of ways. 

Two Community Budget Presentation/Forums are scheduled in June specifically for community questions, comments and feedback:

  • Budget Forum, 5 p.m. Thursday, June 13, Board Room, LPS District Office. 
  • Budget Forum, 7 p.m. Thursday, June 27, Lincoln North Star High School, 5801 N. 33rd St. 

A second Lincoln Board of Education work session is set for 4:30 p.m. June 25, at LPS District Office.  A public hearing and budget forum are set 6-6:45 p.m. on August 13 at LPS District Office. 

You can find the budget book and work session materials at http://www.lps.org/about/budget/

Published: June 11, 2019, Updated: June 11, 2019