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Lincoln East security drill

Lincoln Police School Resource Officer Tom Stumbo checks a door and tries to see inside the Media Center during a recent security exercise at Lincoln East High School. 

ERIC GREGORY, Journal Star file photo

Plans for Lincoln's Safe and Successful Kids Joint Public Agency would limit property taxation by the entity to 1 cent per $100 valuation and would create a voting structure that wouldn't allow either the City Council or school board to dominate decisions.

The draft of the JPA agreement, released publicly Monday morning, will be part of the discussion at two Monday meetings, though the document will not be part of City Council and Lincoln Board of Education meetings for several weeks.

And it's already stirring up controversy. At least one school board member and several City Council members have said there is no need to create a separate governing body to operate the city's community learning centers and pay for additional school resource officers, which is the intent of the proposed JPA.

The city and school district currently operate a school resource officer program in Lincoln's high schools and work jointly on the community learning centers through interlocal agreements.

Setting up the proposed six-member JPA board would ultimately require approval by the City Council and the Lincoln Public Schools board. The JPA board would include the mayor and two council members selected by the mayor, plus the three board members appointed by the board president.

All JPA actions would require approval by at least two city representatives and two school board representatives, assuring that neither group can dominate decisions under the agreement.

Most of the details covered in the draft agreement had been discussed in earlier news conferences, including funding for three specific cooperative areas.

The JPA and its $2 million in initial funding would help pay for six new school resource officers and a threat assessment officer (protective programs); an additional social worker for schools and funding for expanded therapy services to students (preventive programs); and funding for community learning center programs (proactive programs).

The agreement assures at least 40 percent of the JPA's funding would be used for proactive programming and up to 30 percent of the funding would be used for protective funding in the future.

There is no similar guarantee of funding for preventive programming.

While the joint public agency would be a partnership of the two governments -- the city and school district -- it would also allow for input from the nonprofit sector, which would benefit from funding for community learning centers, or CLCs.

Currently, many of the 26 CLCs in local schools are run by nonprofit agencies under contracts with the public schools.

The JPA agreement calls for the separate formation of a nonprofit organization, with a 12-member board of directors, with four from the city, four from LPS and four from community nonprofit agencies. That board would make budget recommendations to the JPA  and would coordinate funding for the CLC programs.

Creating the nonprofit is one of the things that makes the JPA unique, said John Neal, assistant to the LPS superintendent.

The lead agencies that run the after-school programs for the CLCs and some of the community funders have a big investment in the CLCs but can’t be on the JPA itself.

Instead, they will act in an advisory role, through the nonprofit board, he said. 

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The JPA would use the city’s taxing authority. Allowing the JPA to use its authority would require the city to reduce its 50-cent levy limit by 1 cent. Currently, the city levy is $31.7 cents per $100 in valuation, far below the levy limit. 

Though it isn't specified in the agreement, the city and LPS board members have indicated their intent to make the JPA proposal levy neutral, so the two boards would have to reduce their current tax levies to offset a new tax levied by the JPA.

The agreement would continue the funding split for existing school resource officers, for which the school district pays about 35 percent of the costs.

Despite having a current program, city and school district leaders have privately discussed forming a JPA that would provide a long-term foundation for CLCs for several years.

"There’s been a pretty concerted effort to work on a JPA over a number of years,” said Neal.

“The issue is finding a time when it really fits, when there’s a confluence of issues that are very complex and require the school district and the city working incredibly closely.”

Some officials believe that time may have come with the recent concern over school safety, which both the city and schools need to address.

The JPA would provide funding to the programs, but would not actually run them. For example school resource officers would be part of the Lincoln police force and CLCs would continue to be operated by nonprofit agencies, with oversight by LPS administrators.

The JPA agreement is expected to be discussed at a Monday morning meeting of the Super Common, which consists of the City Council, mayor, Lancaster County Board and Lincoln Board of Education. It will also be part of an LPS board work session in the afternoon.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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