Rooted in Academics
Information about the District's Finances
The Superintendent's Blog
Dr. John Schwartz
We want to make sure you get information easily and clearly, and we also value your time. I respect how busy we all are, particularly now at the start of school. The topic of this blog is the district’s finances, and with more than 23,000 students, nearly 3,000 staff members, and thirty-five schools, there are many factors to consider in planning.
There is important and good news to share. We recognize the recent pressure of increased property valuations, and I want to make sure you are aware of the steps being taken at the state level and by our district to minimize the impact while still delivering quality services. My hope is to give you a succinct overview in a short amount of time so you will be informed and know where you can go for additional information if you need it.
Planning is at the core of everything we do, and as you read through these facts, you will see the thought Millard’s Board of Education and administration have given in order to provide for a high-caliber educational program while being good stewards of taxpayers' dollars. The draft of the budget discussed by our Board at recent meetings includes a proposed 4.6% budgeted increase in spending. We recognize this is higher than past years when Millard has traditionally grown its budget by 3% or less. Recently, there have been some unusual inflationary pressures, which have impacted the district.
We have always said our greatest resource is people. It’s one of Millard’s beliefs. Schools across the nation are experiencing a staffing shortage. We are very thankful that while we continue to hire for support staff positions, we are able to provide stability in our classrooms. Approximately 80% of our budget is personnel costs, and our increase is driven primarily by important investments in staff salaries and benefits. For example, all staff groups received at least a 4% total package increase in compensation for the current year. We are certainly feeling the recent years' inflationary pressures on non-personnel areas as well, but we are trying to keep that non-personnel budget growth as low as feasibly possible to keep our expenses down.
We understand these inflationary pressures have been true for everyone. Property valuations have increased considerably, food prices are up, and many other day-to-day necessities cost significantly more today for families than they did just a few years ago.
This is why we have worked hard to use our resources wisely. Based on state information, we remain the second lowest spending district in Nebraska. Additionally, we have lowered our levy for five consecutive years. In 2018-19, our levy was $1.251. Today it is $1.210. We plan to lower it even more this year. Also, in 2018-19, the voters authorized Millard to exceed our maximum levies by up to 9 cents. Knowing the potential burden on taxpayers, we have never used even half of that authority. This year, we do not plan to use any of the levy override.
So, how can we do that? During the last legislative session, the Governor and Nebraska Unicameral adopted a new plan for funding education that is likely to result in approximately $13 million in new state funding for Millard Public Schools. One of the chief expectations of this new money is that it be used to provide property tax relief at the local level.
Based on our preliminary estimates, we anticipate dropping our total levy by approximately 11.19 cents this year. This should provide meaningful relief to our taxpayers who have been bearing the burden of increased taxation as the state equalization aid we have received has decreased as a percentage of our revenue over the years. There is certainly still work to do on state funding for schools to support critical areas such as education workforce retention and recruitment, and to enhance services to serve students, but we appreciate this opportunity to provide relief to our property taxpayers. The 11.19 cent levy reduction means that the average taxpayer will likely see less than a 1% increase in taxes this year.
A last important note, as you may recall, this past year the state adopted what is commonly known as the “post-card bill” which requires all political subdivisions who will be increasing taxes by 2% or more, not including bonds, to be published on a postcard and to participate in a county wide hearing. Because our tax increase will be far less than that, you will not see Millard Public Schools on the postcard.
This is one of the reasons why we felt it was so important to outline similar information for our community. Millard Public Schools values transparency. If you have additional questions about the district’s budget and finances, we are happy to visit with you. Millard’s Chief Financial Officer, Chad Meisgeier, can be reached at email@example.com. You can find more information on our district website, and you are always welcome to attend our Board meetings.
The Millard Board of Education and administration will continue to work together to provide steady and stable financial management while striving to provide the resources to our students and staff to continuously improve our exceptional educational program. The strength of our schools continues to be high quality staff, exceptional students, and our incredible community. Millard is a special place, and we appreciate your ongoing support. We are rooted in education, and our focus is growing students for success.