LPS faces largest state aid cuts

When it comes to budget cuts, state aid is one big item getting reduced.

With a vote of 41-0, lawmakers gave first-round approval that would measure that would cut $130 million to all Nebraska schools.  Lincoln Public Schools accounts for the biggest chunk of that.

Senator Greg Adams of York introduced the bill that would cut $13.7 million to Lincoln Public Schools.  It's the most of any district.  The next largest dollar cut is to Omaha Public Schools at nearly $11.5 million.

Senator Tony Fulton says, “It feels as if our prudence and responsibility in planning for the time when this one-time funding would go away, has resulted in a penalty.”

The education committee snapped at that, saying Lincoln is actually below the average cuts being made throughout the state.  It says it came up with the cuts through a new and fair formula.  That formula essentially says the district's state aid equals its needs minus district resources, including property taxes and motor vehicle receipts.  Adams says, “There are 251 different school districts out there, different in every way, shape and form we needed this to be fair.”

Some say the formula is too confusing, that taxpayers and schools won't be able to easily follow it and prepare for each year.  They say it doesn't add up for districts like LPS that were responsible with their finances.  Senator Fulton says LPS did prepare and is not being left shorthanded.  “Our levy limit is pretty high up there in comparison to most school districts. Lincoln has grown by 3,000 students in the last four years, 900 students a year the last couple, and they haven't ordered proportionate numbers of staff to make up for that.”

The measure must go through two more rounds of approval and get a signature from Governor Heineman to become law.