What is going on with school budgets? This is a question that I have been asked multiple times in recent days. This week we have been in the news regarding budget issues in Millard. If you read the paper this week, you would also have seen Westside and Bellevue discussing budgets. Westside is looking at a four million dollar reduction, and Bellevue is looking at a bond issue. Funding of public education in the state of Nebraska is dicey right now, and Millard is not alone in this battle.
As a member of the Millard community, I think it is extremely important that you understand where we are with the budget. I have included these frequently asked questions for your information and use.
How did we get to this place in our budget?
- The growth in students from year to year has slowed considerably. With each new student, you receive state aid. We are still growing, but it is at less than 1% per year.
- Neighborhood construction has slowed down, and Millard has approximately 3% of its land left to develop. This means fewer new homes are being built so additional property tax isn’t being collected. This is multiplied by the impact of fairly flat property valuations of existing properties.
- In the last two years, we lost an anticipated 5.6 million dollars because state aid was changed to exclude the teacher education and instructional time allowances. These were big factors for us because of the length of our school year and the number of teachers with master’s degrees.
What is our five year history of revenue and expenditures? (Fiscal Year Ending 2011 through Fiscal Year Ending 2016)
- Average increase in expenditures has been 1.2% per year.
- We have added 1091 new students.
- We have reduced 30 positions (.4%).
- Anticipated increase in revenue for 2016-17 is less than 1%.
What additional items regarding the budget should I know about and be able to share?
- Millard is the 3rd lowest spender per student in the state. (3 out of 240 plus school districts)
- We levy the maximum amount permitted under state law and even with that our cost per pupil is $9581.99 compared to the state average $11,619.34.
- We anticipate our expenses to go up around 3 percent while our revenue is projected to increase less than 1 percent.
- Our total budget is 223 million dollars. We are looking at reducing two percent.
How can we renovate our facilities during this budget time?
- Millard taxpayers approved an 80 million dollar bond issues to address renovations.
- Bond money can’t be spent on instruction or services.
How can we go to a one-to-one technology environment in our secondary schools with a budget shortfall?
- The cost of the one-to-one technology will be equal to or less than what we currently spend on technology. We are simply substituting the type of technology we will have in our classrooms.
- Digital learning is about quality instruction and having access to tools on a consistent basis.
How will the District cut 4.1 million dollars, and will anybody lose their job?
- We are currently working through our plan and will make careful recommendations to minimize negative impact.
- We do not plan to lay off any employees. We are a large school district, and any reduction in positions will be handled through attrition.
How can the District add new programs when we are faced with budget cuts?
- There are two ways to address the budget. One way is to reduce spending, and the other is to increase revenue. Expanding a choice program such as Core Knowledge at Disney will enable us to bring new students to Millard. The additional state aid will offset the cost of the program. In the case of AFJROTC at Millard South, the Federal Government covers 75% of the instructor cost and nearly all of the materials.
- We have to be careful with how we spend money on items making sure that they are the right purchases. Just like we are doing with one to one, we are advancing new tools through substitution so that expenses don’t increase. We are focused on advancing our mission and providing the tools staff members need to positively impact student learning.
- The District office has worked hard at identifying resources outside of state aid and property tax. These grants help us move forward.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
- We are in the second year of a two year phase out of the instructional time and teacher education allowances.
- We continue to work with lawmakers to address our needs.
Thank you for taking the time to keep yourself up to date. We are #Proud2bMPS!