Lincoln Public Schools presents 2021-22 budget with $9 million cut

The preliminary budget is about $463 million, around 1.8% less than last year. The decrease comes in part from a lower number of children enrolling and a reduction of state funding.
Lincoln Public Schools

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — After a rocky year from the pandemic, LPS is looking to the future as they present their budget for the 2021–22 school year.

The preliminary budget is about $463 million, around 1.8% less than last year. The decrease comes in part from a lower number of children enrolling and a reduction of state funding.

“I can say speaking for myself, it’s very frustrating when property valuations are through the roof. The legislature responds by cutting our state aid. So that puts us in a position where even though evaluations have been increasing the way they have, we are making cuts, just to try to keep our budget relatively flat for the last couple of years,” Don Mayhew, with the Board of Education, said.

So where are deductions being made in the LPS budget to adjust?

For starters, they are cutting spending on contracted services, equipment and supplies, cutting around 85 full time equivalent positions through not filling existent vacancies. All of that alone, equals to $9.4 million.

They’ll also be consolidating bus routes and hiring more school nurses to replace health technicians which will save a good amount of money.

The hope is to keep teachers in the classroom so they can continue to keep kids the priority.

“I would say after two years and reaching about 5% and reductions, we have really stretched ourselves. So, we we are hoping that our forecasts can can show years where we’re not having to do this hard work of reduction. We’re always ready to do what’s necessary to provide stability for the community,” Liz Standish, Associate Superintendent of Business Affairs, said.

You can read a full breakdown of the budget below.

The Lincoln Board of Education held a work session to view the preliminary proposed budget for the 2021-22 school year. Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish presented the information, which includes input from various staff, community and parent groups. You can view the entire work session here.

The 2021-22 budget development process faces many challenges, as the current three-year forecast carries a great deal of volatility and uncertainty. LPS prudently builds the annual budget using a three-year forecast to minimize the negative impact of drastic swings in revenues.

“The goal of the three-year forecast is sustainability and stability as major swings in revenue are steadied through the utilization of cash flow,” Standish said. “This year’s process proves difficult, as there are many unknowns still associated with the pandemic. We are also seeing major fluctuations in student enrollment, property valuations, State Equalization Aid and rising cost.”

LPS is looking again to make reductions to keep the budget relatively flat, representing the second consecutive year of budget reductions. That requires a reduction of approximately 1.8% in every area to balance the planned budget growth through salaries, benefits, fixed costs and the start-up cost for new schools. The goal is to ensure programming and staffing decisions are sustainable and stable over time.

Standish added, “We developed a preliminary proposed budget plan that emphasizes keeping reductions as far away from the classroom as possible while also focusing on the district’s goal of strengthening equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Over the past year, LPS received three authorizations under Federal Relief Funding and planned use for the funding was detailed in the February 23 Board meeting (click here to view a video of the presentation). The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I) provided aid to reopen and operate school during the pandemic, including remote learning for the 2020-21 school year. ESSER II provided aid to focus on learning acceleration through the summer, while also providing interventions and supports. LPS is currently working on a grant application for ESSER III funding that will be accounted for in a separate fund with rules and limitations on how it can be used.

This is a residential property revaluation year, and property valuation increases in 2021 will lead to major reductions in State Equalization Aid for 2022-23. In the past, LPS used the residential revaluation year to add to the cash reserve – a practice that offsets the negative impact of State Equalization Aid dropping significantly the following year. Since 2019, LPS experienced a significant drop in State Equalization Aid – approximately $30 million. It is possible that state equalization could drop $10-20 million next year.

The LPS preliminary proposed budget totals about $463 million, an expenditure budget increase of one-half of one percent. Currently, the preliminary budget proposal provides a decrease of one penny in the overall property tax levy.

Other highlights of the 2021-22 preliminary proposed budget include:

  • The Board prioritized keeping cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. Staffing at schools was adjusted to match the drop in enrollment during the past school year.
  • A proposed $9.4 million in reductions include cutting spending on contracted services, equipment and supplies, and eliminating approximately 85 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions through attrition by not filling existing vacancies or not replacing open positions.
  • Reductions were made to offset fixed expenditure increases, which include salary and benefit costs of $6.4 million, and $1.5 million in insurance premiums.
  • Start-up costs for the new elementary school and a new high school opening in the fall of 2022 of approximately $3.8 million.
  • Implementing an extensive reading intervention program at multiple grade levels instead of offering the licensed Reading Recovery Program at first grade will reach more students and save approximately $61,732.
  • Restructuring the gifted facilitator positions to a centralized system will provide more specialized services to more students and save approximately $324,223.
  • Hiring more school nurses to replace health technicians and treatment nurses will provide a reduction of $7,335.
  • Consolidating bus routes provides more efficiency and reduces the budget by nearly $100,000.
  • In 2019-20, LPS ranked 213th out of 244 school districts in Nebraska in per pupil spending – $12,889 per pupil compared to the state average of $13,558.
  • The General Fund Levy will remain at $1.05, but reductions in the Bond Fund Levy and the Qualified Capital Purpose Fund Levy will lower the overall levy one penny to $1.211892 from $1.221966.

LPS continues to rely on a solid process for budget development that includes multiple opportunities for community feedback. There will be two budget forums – one in person and one virtually – with a short presentation and time for community questions, comments and feedback.

  • In-person forum: Wednesday, June 23, 5 p.m. in the LPS District Office boardroom (5905 O St.) This forum will also be streamed live for viewing on the LPS website and the LPS YouTube channel.
  • Virtual forum: Thursday, June 24, at noon, join the forum to provide feedback and ask questions using this link. This forum will also be streamed live on the LPS Facebook page.

Any community group that would like to schedule a presentation on the preliminary proposed budget should contact LPS Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish at 402-436-1636 or by emailing lstandis@lps.org. More information about the LPS preliminary proposed budget can be found on the LPS website: lps.org/about/budget.

Categories: Education News, Lancaster, News