Highlights of Lincoln Board of Education Budget Hearing - Aug. 23, 2021

The Lincoln Board of Education on Monday held a public hearing for the purpose of gathering public input on the proposed budget for the 2021-22 school year. Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish briefly presented the information, which includes input from various staff, community and parent groups. 

You can watch the full public hearing here.

The 2021-22 budget development process faces many challenges, as the current three-year forecast carries a great deal of volatility and uncertainty. LPS prudently builds the annual budget using a three-year forecast to minimize the negative impact of drastic swings in revenues. 

LPS is again making reductions to keep the budget relatively flat, representing the second consecutive year of budget reductions. That requires a reduction of approximately 1.8% in every area to balance the planned budget growth through salaries, benefits, fixed costs and the start-up cost for new schools. The goal is to ensure programming and staffing decisions are sustainable and stable over time. 

Over the past year, LPS received three authorizations under Federal Relief Funding and planned use for the funding was detailed in the February 23 Board meeting (click here to view a video of the presentation). The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I) provided aid to reopen and operate school during the pandemic, including remote learning for the 2020-21 school year. ESSER II provided aid to focus on learning acceleration through the summer, while also providing interventions and supports. LPS is currently working on a grant application for ESSER III funding that will be accounted for in a separate fund with rules and limitations on how it can be used. 

This is a residential property revaluation year, and property valuation increases in 2021 will lead to major reductions in State Equalization Aid for 2022-23. In the past, LPS used the residential revaluation year to add to the cash reserve - a practice that offsets the negative impact of State Equalization Aid dropping significantly the following year. Since 2019, LPS experienced a significant drop in State Equalization Aid - approximately $30 million. It is possible that state equalization could drop $10-20 million next year.

The LPS preliminary proposed budget totals about $463 million, an expenditure budget increase of one-half of one percent. Currently, the preliminary budget proposal provides a decrease of one penny in the overall property tax levy. 

Other highlights of the 2021-22 proposed budget include:

  • The Board prioritized keeping cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. Staffing at schools was adjusted to match the drop in enrollment during the past school year along with a reduction at half of the level for district departments.
  • A proposed $9.4 million in reductions include cutting spending on contracted services, equipment and supplies, and eliminating approximately 85 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions through attrition by not filling existing vacancies or not replacing open positions.
  • Reductions were made to offset fixed expenditure increases, which include salary and benefit costs of $6.4 million, and $1.5 million in insurance premiums.
  • Start-up costs for the new elementary school and a new high school opening in the fall of 2022 of approximately $3.8 million.
  • Implementing an extensive reading intervention program at multiple grade levels instead of offering the licensed Reading Recovery Program at first grade will reach more students and save approximately $61,732.
  • Restructuring the gifted facilitator positions to a centralized system will provide more specialized services to more students and save approximately $324,223.
  • Hiring more school nurses to replace health technicians and treatment nurses will provide a reduction of $7,335.
  • Consolidating bus routes provides more efficiency and reduces the budget by nearly $100,000.
  • In 2019-20, LPS ranked 213th out of 244 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending - $12,889 per pupil compared to the state average of $13,558.
  • The General Fund Levy will remain at $1.05, but reductions in the Bond Fund Levy and the Qualified Capital Purpose Fund Levy will lower the overall levy one penny to $1.210942 from $1.221966.

The Board will hold first reading of the 2021-22 Budget at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Published: August 23, 2021, Updated: August 23, 2021