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LPS' $460.7 million budget moves toward school board vote Sept. 8
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LPS' $460.7 million budget moves toward school board vote Sept. 8

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The Lincoln Board of Education gave a first nod Tuesday to a $460.4 million budget that reflects $11 million in cuts and $14.4 million from the cash reserve.

The proposed 2020-21 general fund budget — just less than a half a percent, or $1.8 million more than the current budget — includes 37 fewer teachers, at least seven fewer media specialists, 10 fewer paraeducators and five fewer high school coordinators, all cuts made through attrition or reassignment.

The school board will vote on the budget at its Sept. 8 meeting.

A significant drop in state aid and a yet-to-be-determined impact of the pandemic led to the tight budget, for which the district uses a three-year forecasting model.

Start of school in a pandemic: Time-worn first-day-of-school traditions alongside the new ones

The tax rate required to pay for the budget will remain unchanged from this year: $1.237 per $100 of assessed property valuation to fund the general fund, bond debt payments and the Educational Service Unit, which handles much of the district’s professional learning and assessment.

The general fund tax rate will be at the state-imposed lid of $1.05 per $100 of valuation. Last year, it was $1.04, but taxpayers were still assessed that extra penny, which went to the district’s building fund. That penny will shift back to the general fund.

The 17.2 cents and 1.5 cents per $100 of valuation on the bond funds and ESU remain unchanged.

That means the owner of a home worth $201,600 — the average value of a home in Lincoln — will pay $2,494 in taxes to support LPS. The district comprises more than 60% of a Lincoln resident’s tax bill.

State aid, one of two primary sources of revenue for the district, will drop $20.2 million to $112.8 million, the second straight year the district’s state aid has dropped. That’s happened largely because of a couple of years of big increases in property tax revenue, smaller enrollment growth, fewer English language learners and no new schools.

Crowd of protesters outside LPS district office an illustration that it won't be a normal school year

Property tax revenue — the second primary sources of district funding — will generate $256.8 million this year. Property valuations increased 3.1%, slightly more than the 3% LPS predicted. The extra $237,000 will be used to reduce the amount needed from the cash reserve.

The biggest expense in the budget is always salaries and will cost the district an additional $12.1 million this year to fund a 2.8% increase in salaries and benefits. The superintendent and LPS executive team froze their salaries in light of the budget issues.

The district asked all departments to reduce their budgets by 3%, along with out-of-state travel, contracted services and supplies. Staff reductions will save $3.7 million, even with two new school counselors, a coordinator for a program to help struggling students graduate and extra money to teachers taking on additional class periods to make up for smaller staffs.

Among the few budget increases: money to pay for an increase in insurance premiums, as well as funds needed to maintain early childhood education classes no longer funded by state grants, to add two more early childhood classrooms and increase hours for social workers.

Details of learning in a pandemic: Busing, substitute teachers, air flow and sanitizing classrooms

Photos: First day of school for Lincoln-area students

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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