Considering the rate at which Lincoln Public Schools' student population is growing and that previous bond requests are expiring from our property taxes in 2020, it is no secret that LPS is considering a bond issue.
And for good reason. Lincoln is growing, causing LPS to need additional facilities at all grade levels — elementary, middle and high schools.
There is much we do not know about what will be included in that bond election: How many schools does Lincoln need? What grade levels? Where should each school be located? Will the bond include a new high school or new high schools? How much money will be sought?
At the next school board meeting on Dec. 11, LPS staff will present a 10-year facility plan, which will begin to cast light on some of these questions. Many questions will remain unanswered as the Superintendent Facility Advisory Committee puts together its recommendations beginning in January.
However, there is one thing that I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt: Lincoln Public Schools' next bond issue should not increase taxes.
Let me share the context to this well-informed opinion. In October 2017, National Research and Polling, a nationally recognized polling firm, conducted a live-phone poll on my behalf.
While the polling was confined to my school board district of central and east Lincoln, a very large sampling of 920 frequent voters readily responded to 12 school-related questions. Participants represented the complete composition of my district by age, political affiliation and sex.
The poll asked, “If LPS proposed a bond issue that did not raise your taxes would you vote for it or against it?”
The citizens of my district would pass a no-tax increase bond issue very easily: 51 percent said yes, and only 16 percent said no, with the remaining 33 percent unsure. The proposal is a win for students and a win for the community.
We also asked, “If LPS proposed a bond issue that raised your taxes only $40 a year would you vote for it or against it?”
Again, the citizens of my district spoke loud and clear. But, this time, the results were not nearly as favorable: Only 33 percent said yes, while 46 percent said no. The remaining 21 percent were unsure.
The data are clear: If Lincoln Public Schools wants to pass a bond issue to provide for the growing needs of our community, we should not propose a bond issue that increases the tax levy even by one penny. (A one-cent levy increase is roughly $40 per year for the average price home in Lincoln). If LPS does propose a bond that increases the tax levy, initial indications are that it could fail miserably.
I invite you to join us at the Dec. 11 school board meeting — 6 p.m. at LPS district office at 5905 O St. — to review the 10-year facility plan and get a glimpse into the facility needs of our growing school district.