Perkins County Schools prepared for state aid cut
By Jan Rahn
News from the Legislature mid-April at least gives the board and administration of Perkins County Schools a heads-up in planning the upcoming school year with fewer dollars to work with in terms of state aid—something everyone was expecting, so there were no surprises.
For the current 2010-11 school term the district received just over $194,000. This amount was a decrease of $590,260 in state aid from the previous year—but then came this year’s figure.
The coming school year, the district will take a big hit. The amount of money the schools are slated to receive is $27,000.
Superintendent Tobin Buchanan said the reduction in state aid is something that has been anticipated. The good news is that the district does not foresee any major reductions in staff or programs for the upcoming school term of 2011-12.
The Nebraska Legislature gave approval to a bill to provide $822 million in state aid to Nebraska’s 251 school districts for the 2011-12 fiscal year and $880 for the following year.
The figure is $32 million more than the amount proposed by Governor Dave Heineman over a two-year period.
The measure was passed by lawmakers on April 20 on a 41-2 vote and sent to the governor.
The state aid to schools figure is part of the equation lawmakers are dealing with in writing the state’s budget with an anticipated revenue gap of up to $1 billion.
“We have become a district that is not reliant upon the amount of dollars the state aid formula sits out each year—which certainly is not a bad thing,” said Buchanan.
“Due to our district’s increasing valuations and relatively small enrollment we are double whammied when it comes to receiving state aid dollars.”
Aid to public schools this year amounted to $950 million. Of that amount, $140 million was provided through the federal stimulus package by the president and congress.
The governor had wanted to provide $810 million to schools next year, arguing it signified no reduction in actual state aid because the funds lost represented federal dollars.
School districts argued that, “a cut is a cut is a cut” and that the governor’s plan would leave them with nearly 15 percent less.
Heineman’s plan would provide the schools with $860 million in the following year.
Funds received in the form of state aid are intended to help hold down local property taxes which are otherwise used to pay for schools.
School districts are limited to a property tax levy of $1.05 for every $100 of taxable valuation on a property.
A favorable local vote is the only way districts can exceed the maximum levy.