It was a busy night Monday as eight metro Omaha school boards approved budgets and locked in tax rates for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
A property valuation increase of 4.5 percent across the 11 Learning Community districts — even higher in outlying areas — will help some districts make ends meet, but it will worsen the tax hit to owners of property marked up in value.
Meanwhile, the Learning Community’s common levy continues to draw criticism from officials in districts that forfeit money to the shared tax system.
The tax levy is staying at $1.30 per $100 of valuation, which means the owner of a $150,000 house will pay $1,950.
The 2015-16 general fund budget is $124.6 million, up 2.74 percent from the current year.
The district lost $1.29 million to the Learning Community’s common property tax levy, which distributes tax revenue among the 11 member districts according to a state needs formula.
The loss is equivalent to nearly 3 cents of the tax levy, according to Doug Lewis, assistant superintendent for business and finance.
“That would have a significant impact on our district,” Lewis said.
Papillion-La Vista has 11,200 students.
The school board, after a rocky year that included budget cuts and a continued decrease in federal aid, adopted a levy that will keep taxes flat this year. The $106.6 million operating budget was approved last month.
The budget for 2015-16 is a 1.5 percent increase over last year, but the total levy will remain flat at $1.088 per $100 assessed value. For a home valued at $150,000, that translates to an annual tax bill of roughly $1,632.
The budget reflects a $4.1 million package of spending cuts the board approved in February to help stave off a projected budget shortfall. Federal impact aid has decreased for years as the number of children from military families attending Bellevue schools continues to shrink. Total enrollment last year was 10,085.
A decade ago, Bellevue received nearly $17 million in aid. For the foreseeable future, aid is expected to hover around $2 million. Impact aid helps offset property tax revenue that districts lose because of tax-exempt military property.
The cuts approved in February included delaying elementary curriculum and technology purchases and eliminating some positions through attrition and retirements.
The budget and flat tax rate are “proof of all the belt-tightening and decisions last year that put us in a good place going forward,” said Susan Brooks, Bellevue’s director of fiscal affairs.
Property valuations are up 2.8 percent this year, the first increase in several years.
Board members approved the first increase in the property tax levy since 2010, after Elkhorn residents approved a bond issue last year. The total levy increased 2.2 cents to $1.33 per $100 of assessed value, or $1,995 for the owner of a $150,000 home.
This marks the third consecutive year that enrollment in the state’s seventh-largest school district has grown by at least 500 students. K-12 enrollment is about 7,850, Superintendent Steve Baker said, with another 250 children in prekindergarten.
Elkhorn Public Schools will open Arbor View Elementary School next year and another elementary school in 2017. Officials are seeking a site for a third high school.
The district’s rapid and large growth was a factor in this year’s increase in the budget, Baker said. The general fund increased about 8.5 percent to a little more than $74.1 million, from about $68.3 million last year.
The property tax levy will rise 3 cents to $1.37 per $100 of valuation because of the bond issue voters passed in May, Superintendent Kevin Riley said.
The owner of a $150,000 house would pay $2,055 in school taxes.
The budget of $40 million is up nearly 10 percent.
Gretna has 4,116 students, an increase of 305 this year.
Increases in property valuations, state aid and revenue from the Learning Community common levy helped Ralston balance its 3.34 percent spending increase this year.
The district’s general fund budget is $31.55 million. The combined levy is unchanged at $1.266 per $100 assessed value, which will result in flat taxes. For the owner of a property assessed at $150,000, that means a tax bill of about $1,899.
Ralston is one of the Learning Community common levy “winners” this year — the district will collect about $200,000 more in revenue than if the common levy hadn’t been implemented, according to Jason Buckingham, executive director of fiscal affairs. Property valuations also increased by 3.26 percent or $49.3 million.
Enrollment is up in Ralston, which has about 3,100 K-12 students. To compensate, the district has added more staff at the elementary level, Buckingham said.
An influx of students and a recently approved school bond program are behind Bennington’s budget and spending growth, Superintendent Terry Haack said.
The general fund budget approved by the school board is $21.5 million, an 11.35 percent spending increase.
Bennington has about 2,065 students, a 9.5 percent increase from last year. As a result, the district will spend an estimated $1.7 million more on personnel this year, including more staff added at the middle and high school levels, Haack said.
This year’s budget also includes $700,000 toward the $38.5 million bond program that will fund construction of a new middle school. Voters approved the measure in May.
With the bond expenses, Bennington’s combined levy will increase 3 cents, to $1.421 per $100 assessed value. For the owner of a $150,000 home, that translates to a tax bill of about $2,132, an increase of about $47.
The tax rate in this southern Sarpy County district will be nearly the same as last year: $1.073 per $100 of valuation. That results in a tax bill of about $1,610 on a $150,000 house.
The general fund budget is up 4.5 percent to $14.9 million.
Although the district’s total property valuation increased more than 10 percent, Springfield Platteview doesn’t reap much benefit, said Superintendent Brett Richards.
For 2015-16, the district loses $3.2 million in property taxes to the Learning Community’s common levy, the biggest loss ever, he said.
Enrollment this year is 1,087 for K-12, plus 59 preschoolers.
Douglas County West
The tax levy of $1.085 per $100 of valuation is virtually the same as this year.
That translates to a tax bill of $1,628 on a $150,000 house.
The district currently has no bond levy, but today’s mail-in bond election could change that for the future. If voters approve both ballot propositions, authorizing $45.95 million in additions and renovations, the total levy would rise to $1.38.
The general fund is up 3.5 percent to $13.06 million.
Current enrollment is 888.