LPS Learning Lunch focuses on legislative changes and the LPS budget process

School and community members gained valuable insight about the upcoming budgetary process for Lincoln Public Schools during a special presentation April 25.
LPS Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish presented “Legislative Changes and the LPS Budget” to in-person and online audiences at a Learning Lunch event. She provided details of past, current and future LPS budgets throughout the 30-minute presentation.
Standish said she and Lincoln Board of Education members felt it was important to provide people with as much information as possible about plans for the 2024-25 budget.
“Our goal for this Learning Lunch is to begin to get information out in the community. We’re still two months away from the Board of Education budget workshop and the preliminary proposed budget,” Standish said. “Today, we’re just trying to share the framework that we’re operating under. Everything I’m presenting today is very much conceptual.”
Standish began her talk by providing information about a school finance package that the Nebraska Unicameral passed in 2023. The package included language that allowed locally elected school boards to continue to control their local budgets based on community input.
In response to the school finance package, Lincoln Board of Education members reduced the total levy for the 2023-24 school year by 14 cents. The levy went from $1.21 to $1.07 per $100 of property valuation. This decision was made to minimize the impact of a 22.5-percent increase in property valuation within LPS district boundaries last year and to recognize the shift in funding to the state for special education costs.
Standish said local school board oversight of the LPS budget process is critical. The school district will continue to use a three-year budget forecasting model to minimize volatile changes in revenue from year to year.
For example, an increase in property valuation during one year often leads to a decrease in state aid for LPS the following year. This is based on a state equalization aid formula called Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). The district will experience a decrease of $32,422,664 in state aid for the 2024-2025 school year.
A second topic Standish discussed was a portion of the 2023 school finance package that dealt with special education reimbursements. The legislation increased the special education reimbursement amount from 40 percent to 80 percent. The 2024-25 school year will be the first time the additional special education revenue is included in each district’s cap calculation.
Standish said while it may look like school districts will receive more money from special education reimbursements in 2024-25, that isn’t the case. There is a long delay between school district expenditures on special education services and the time when they receive reimbursements. Instead of an apparent seven-percent revenue increase next year, Standish said LPS will only experience true revenue growth of one percent.
“It’s always lagging a year, because you have to actually spend the money, and then the next year you get reimbursed for what you spend,” Standish said. “That lag is truly what is creating this one-year circumstance.”
Standish said the public will have many opportunities to provide input on next year’s budget. Lincoln Board of Education will present the preliminary proposed budget during a 4:30 p.m. work session June 25. Community members will be able to comment on the budget proposal during that evening’s 6 p.m. regular meeting.
LPS will host a series of public forums beginning June 26. Dates and times are available on the LPS website here
Community members can also submit comments through an online portal from June 26-July 12. A budget hearing will take place Aug. 26 and a public-comment session will happen at the Aug. 27 regular board meeting. School board members will hold budget adoption hearings at their Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 public meetings.
Standish said events like the Learning Lunch were helpful for everyone living and working in LPS district boundaries.
“I think the big message is that we are facing a unique year this year. We have to walk the community through the math to understand the role of the special ed reimbursement and how that plays in the numbers. In the future we have to continue to understand that keeping the authority of the board is essential,” Standish said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to navigate what are very normal swings that happen to schools in revenue from year to year nor would we be able to invest in strategic initiatives to address student needs."
Learn more about the LPS budget and the process on our webpage: https://home.lps.org/budget/.

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Published: April 30, 2024, Updated: May 13, 2024

LPS Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish speaks during a Learning Lunch event in the district office April 25. Standish presented information about the 2024-25 budgetary process. She highlighted many legislative and financial pieces of information for in-person and online audiences.