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52154fc0c6ae2 Students select items during lunch at WHS.
Students select items during lunch at WHS.

2013-14 Budget

School district budgets have become more of a challenge in recent years. Unfortunately, in District 145, like many other school districts, we have not been able to build up our cash reserves to help ease the effect of fluctuating state and federal aid to schools. While other schools were making significant cuts to programs in recent years, we have been able to maintain our course offerings along with maintaining our certificated staff. 

Students in the photo pictured with this article are choosing items for their lunch. They have many options, but most students do not select, purchase, and eat everything. Their choices are made based on their needs (appetite, preferences, dietary restrictions) and available resources (dollars in their account). School budgets experience the same type of scenarios - we examine all of the options and possibilities, but allocate our limited resources based on the needs of our students and district.

On August 19, 2013 a special school board meeting was held to discuss the 2013-14 budget. An important factor in the discussion is that in the past two school years (2011-12 and 2012-13), our revenue in the General Fund was not sufficient to match our expenditures. We know we cannot continue to operate in this manner or we will deplete our already limited reserves.

We have been able to make this work by using some of our limited cash reserves from previous years. We use a line of credit ($3.5 million in 2012-13) to carry us through the fiscal year until we can collect enough tax receipts in August to pay back the one year, short-term loan. The fiscal year for school districts is September 1 to August 31.

District 145 has had to absorb a funding shortfall of more than two million dollars in decreased state support in the past couple of years. Even though property values in the district have risen, we are not able to generate sufficient revenue from property taxes to fill that gap in the short term. State and federal receipts in our district have gone down faster than the rate at which property values and tax collections in our district have gone up, thus creating a revenue "gap."

We have continued to look for ways to “tighten our belt.” A side effect is the need to defer facility maintenance. We are rapidly approaching a critical time where we must address major, and costly, maintenance projects in our district. With approximately 500,000 square feet of building space, there is a lot of roofs, doors, walls, carpeting, heating and cooling systems, wiring, and furniture, not to mention parking lots, sidewalks, and green space to care for.

Let me try to explain why we currently receive less support from the state.  First of all, within the state aid formula is a factor called "equalization aid.”  Equalization aid is designed to take into consideration many factors for all school districts, and then provide schools the necessary state dollars, when combined with local and federal dollars, to provide students in the various school districts across the state an equitable education.  In short, they look at what money schools can get from other resources, such as property taxes, then the formula determines what each school district’s needs are based on the number of students, demographics of the student body, etc.  Once "needs" are determined, they calculate the difference between what a school needs and what they can generate from other resources.  The difference is “equalization aid.” 

For 2013-14 the state determined our formula needs are $16,357,949 and our resources are $16,250,229; meaning the state will give us $107,719 in equalization aid.  For 2012-13 we were certified to receive $554,216 in equalization aid.  Basically, in 2013-14 the state formula determined that our local resources are close to equal of our calculated needs. 

One reason we had a decline in state and federal financial support is due to the economy and the legislature making changes to the state aid formula. The other main reason we have seen a decline in state support is the continued increase in property valuations in our school district. The state formula recognizes that an increase in our property valuations is an increase in local resources and thus the formula offsets the increase in local resources with a decrease in state resources. This is equalization.

We are fully aware that we rely heavily on local tax dollars to fund education in our school district. We have no other choice. The Legislature provides school districts a specific mechanism to generate revenue, and property tax is the primary means to do so. School districts do not assess property value, that is a function of the county assessor. The county assessor determines property values based on the price that buyers are willing to pay for property.

In District 145, we have lost considerable state financial support and as a result have had to keep the local tax levy near the maximums allowable by state statute. This is the only means we have to continue to fund the education we want for our children. Local property taxes account for approximately 80% of our budgeted reciepts in the General Fund. In 2012-13, approximately 28% of our property valuation is derived from agricultural property. That means 72% of our district’s property valuation comes from residential, commercial, and industrial property.

We continue to look for efficiencies where possible and operate within the levy limits and expenditure limits stipulated by the state of Nebraska, while trying to meet the educational needs of all children. 

On September 3, the Board of Education will hold a budget hearing that provides patrons the opportunity to speak to the Board regarding our proposed budget. Notice of the proposed budget and hearing, by law, is published in a newspaper at least five days prior to the meeting.

Click here to view Notice of Budget Hearing and Budget Summary

Click here to access Nebraska Department of Education Finance & Organizational Services

Click here to view district updates from the superintendent.

2013-14 Budget

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