The Lincoln Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously passed a $458.6 million general fund budget — a 3.3% increase officials say is driven primarily by salary increases, more teachers and three additional early childhood classrooms.

The 2019-20 budget will use money from the district's cash reserve to help pay for the $14.8 million increase in the face of a 9% reduction in state aid.

Last year, several years of booming enrollment culminated in a nearly $20 million increase in state aid. But district officials, in turn, anticipated a significant drop this year and prepared for it by putting $7.4 million into the cash reserve.

As anticipated, LPS' state aid dropped by $13.7 million — to $133 million.

The district, however, will benefit from another total property revaluation done by the Lancaster County Assessor's Office because of rapidly rising home prices.

LPS officials had estimated property tax revenue would rise 6.5% — nearly $15 million — to $245 million.

Based on those estimates, LPS officials planned to use $3.5 million from its cash reserve. 

But Tuesday, Liz Standish, associate superintendent of business affairs, said certified valuations — the actual valuations certified by the county assessor — increased 7.37%.

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Because they'll get more money than anticipated, LPS officials will use only $1.5 million from the cash reserve to help balance the budget, Standish said.  

The budget will keep the general fund tax rate at $1.04 per $100 of assessed valuation — a cent below the state-mandated lid.

The total tax levy to support LPS services is $1.238 per $100 of valuation, including the general fund levy, a 1.5-cent levy to support the Educational Service Unit; and a combined levy of 18.3 cents to pay off bond debt and add money to the building fund.

That means the owner of a $184,800 home will pay $2,288 in taxes to LPS, about $2 less than this year — assuming the owner's property valuation didn’t change.

However, many homeowners will likely see an increase in their property valuation — and so also in their tax bill — because of the revaluations in Lancaster County.

LPS comprises more than 60% of a Lincoln homeowner's tax bill.

District officials shifted 1 cent from the bond fund levy to the building fund. The estimated $2 million in revenue will be used to bolster money available for land purchases.

The district has made a few land deals this year, but still needs land for one or two new high schools — something officials anticipate asking for in the district's next bond issue.

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

On Twitter @LJSreist.


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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