The North Platte Board of Education will meet Monday to vote on the district’s upcoming property tax request, a request that has increased by $400,000 since the budget hearing was held on Aug. 4.

The property tax request will be $24.66 million, up from $24.21 million that was proposed at the public hearing a month ago.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. Monday at the McKinley Center. 301 West F St.

It is a public hearing.

The regular board meeting will follow at 5:30 p.m., when the board will vote on approving the budget and the tax request (levy.)

Bernice Ziegler, a North Platte resident and taxpayer who attends meetings and urges the school board to ease the tax impact on families, realized a proposed increase was coming a week ago.

Ziegler wrote the school board an open letter on Aug. 29 after she found a $210,000 increase in the updated budget. That increase has doubled since, according to a school budget public notice attached to the agenda that was released Thursday.

When asked by email the reason for the increase Friday, the district’s Finance Director Stuart Simpson said property valuations are higher than first expected.

When asked how much the valuation increase is in dollars and cents, Simpson did not respond.

 

Ziegler’s letter was published in the Bulletin’s Aug. 29 print edition and online Sept. 3 on the opinion page.

It says:

An open letter to the North Platte Board of Education:

‘Don’t raise budget after hearing’

On Aug. 6, the North Platte school board held a public hearing, presenting the budget for 2018-19, using an estimated increase in property valuations of 1.5%.

That budget included a very small increase in the school tax levy, if the value of your property has not increased in the past year.

It was a tight budget for the schools, but certainly within the needs to adequately provide a good education for the students. It was presented to the public at the hearing as acceptable, worked on for more than a year by the finance committee.

On the afternoon of the public hearing, the general fund – the responsibility of property taxpayers – was $24.2 million.

However, on Aug. 20, the certified property valuations for the school district showed a 2.34% increase, instead of a 1.5% increase that initial budget projected. So, the proposed budget had to be adjusted.

I obtained a copy of the revised budget on Aug. 23 and found two changes.

“General fund disbursements” were slated to increase $201,089, while “other resources” (available money) was now slated to decrease by that much.

I wonder: from which of the available resources did that exact amount no longer become available?

Available resources are about $9 million in state aid; $4 million in grants; $2 million in special education funding; $2 million from motor vehicle taxes and miscellaneous revenues, and $1 million from factors in the U.S. Census, according to the district’s Finance Director Stuart Simpson, whom I met with before the Aug. 6 public hearing.

Property valuations should have no effect on “available resources.”

The increase in valuations could offer some relief to those paying property tax, and not just become more spending money for the schools, who admitted to being able to operate successfully with the money that appeared to be available at the budget hearing on Aug. 6. I supported that budget and its small levy increase.

The final decision now rests with our six school board representatives. They are not winning friends or favorably impressing residents by continuing to increase taxes when indeed it is possible to have an acceptable budget without doing so.

Also, how could the school board justify being the only taxing authority out of six other entities that continues to increase its tax call every year, yet has no growth, but actually fewer students?

Don’t cave into school administrators and close the door in the face of those who also support and care about the home life of their children.

Accept the Aug. 6 budget, and pass the extra funds from the higher certified valuation to the taxpayers, resulting at last in a lower levy.

 

Bernice Ziegler is a North Platte resident who attends county commissioner and school board meetings, advocating for taxpayers. This article was updated Friday, Sept. 7, after an email response from the school district’s Finance Director Stuart Simpson.