The North Platte school board approved a slightly lower school district budget Monday for the next fiscal year.

The tax levy will decrease by about 3%. A property owner will pay about 2% less in taxes to the school district in the coming year.

The school is budgeted to spend $57.8 million in the coming year, a little less than the $58 million during the fiscal year that is ending, according to budget documents approved by the school board.

The school district levy next year will be $1.19 per $100 of property, or $1,190 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

Finance Director Stuart Simpson said the district is not out of the woods yet from the shortfall in property taxes, and also a shortfall in grant payments, although the Lincoln County Treasurer’s office is now making payments on time to the school district.

The district has a $10 million operating deficit, according to the financial report the Simpson prepared for the board.

So far this year, the district is still about $7 million behind schedule in property tax receipts, but Simpson believes that will arrive this month from property owners who have paid the 2nd half of their taxes. Property owners typically pay taxes in two installments – on or about May 30, with another payment on or about Sept. 1.

Judging by past history, the district should receive more than $7 million this month, Simpson told the Bulletin after the meeting.

Meanwhile, Simpson stressed the importance of maintaining 25% of operating costs in a cash reserve, to deal with unexpected emergencies, such as the shortfall from the county treasurer’s office.

Looking ahead, board members also mentioned the possibility of a tax override election, a vote to override the state imposed levy limit. At this point, a special election has been discussed in subcommittee meetings between board members and top administrators, but nothing definite has been determined, board members said.

Simpson and the board are also discussing the school buildings – how much they are used and what repair and remodeling needs exist.

The new fiscal year budget allocates considerably more for buildings.


Para-educators’ contract

In other action, the board approved a two-year agreement with para-educators (teacher’s aides), a 2% pay hike each year, Simpson said. The aides are paid from $11 to $21 an hour, depending on experience.

Aides also receive 2 paid holidays, 2 days of personal leave, limited sick pay and $10,000 in term life insurance. Those who work an average of 30 hours a week are eligible for some health insurance benefits.


Budget highlights

District spending will decrease from $58.022 million to $57.792 million – or $230,000 less. Property tax asking will decline from $28.67 million to $28.02 million, or $650,000.

There are two big reasons for the decline:

The district is up against the state imposed tax levy limit.

Property valuations are up just 1.2%, or virtually flat, Simpson said.

Also, the $29 million bond that paid for the high school will be paid off in December, so the taxpayer’s obligation will be $1.15 million less in the coming year, because a second annual payment won’t come due.

On the other hand, the district will increase its special building fund by nearly $500,000, a 40% hike.

The district will reduce general fund spending by $460,000.