Fiscally Responsible Excellence
A Blog by Dr. John Schwartz, Superintendent
One of the aspects I appreciate most about Millard is our transparency. You are always welcome to attend our Board meetings and you will find a vast amount of information available on our district website, but I also fully recognize what busy lives Millard families and staff lead. My hope is to succinctly and transparently provide information about our finances that will give you a good overview in a short amount of time. The facts highlight a thoughtful approach by the Board of Education and administration to strike the proper balance between providing the necessary resources to support a high quality educational program and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
During the most recently audited decade, 2011-2021, Millard experienced an average annual revenue increase of 1.09%. Yes, you read that correctly - only 1.09%. During the same ten-year audited period of time, school spending increased on average by a modest 1.21% each year. This average annual increase in revenue is a shocking statistic by almost any standard. When approximately 80% of the district expenditures go towards people - the teachers and staff who serve students - adjusting to such small revenue growth becomes especially complicated.
Even though Millard has seen modest revenue increases and controlled spending, we also recognize there has been a growing burden on property taxpayers. The culprit is not out of control school spending. It is lagging state aid to schools. In 2009-10, Millard received $75,769,526 in state aid which accounted for 35.4% of our budgeted revenue. Yet during the current school year we are receiving only $73,384,179 in state aid, which is 27.9% of our budgeted revenue. During this same time of declining state aid, we have increased enrollment by more than a thousand students, not to mention absorbing other growing costs outside of our control.
Answering the question about why state aid has decreased for Millard is complex, but can easily be summarized around two key driving factors. First, it is important to understand that within the state aid formula, as property valuations grow, the financial aid from the state to a school district sees a nearly proportional decline the following year when other variables remain the same. Simply stated, the formula which provides aid to schools is not designed to provide property tax relief when real estate property valuations increase. A second major driver of the reduced aid to Millard has been changes made to the formula to reduce state obligations to school districts. For example, it was once common for schools to receive aid to incentivize small kindergarten class sizes, higher levels of teacher education, and student instructional time. These are all factors which have been removed from the formula. In the final year that these three factors were a structural part of the state aid formula, they accounted for approximately $12 million dollars of our revenue. That is $12 million dollars we no longer receive. In addition to structural changes to the formula, it has not been uncommon for the legislature to make minor adjustments to the formula to lower state obligations to schools. These minor changes can reduce the amount of state funding we receive by millions of dollars each year.
This is a complicated needle to thread for schools when it comes to developing a long-term financial plan. Millard’s Board of Education and administration continue to work hard to find the right balance. We have lowered the total levy five consecutive years in a row - from $1.2510 in 2018-19 to $1.2100 for the current school year. Over time Millard has consistently had one of the lowest overall levies in the Omaha-Metro area. The District is also one of Nebraska’s perennially lowest per pupil spending districts, demonstrating an efficient use of the district resources while providing world-class educational opportunities for students.
The Millard Board of Education and administration work collaboratively to provide steady and stable financial management while concurrently striving to continuously improve our exceptional educational program. The strength of our schools continues to be high quality staff, exceptional students, and an undeniable sense of community. Millard is a special place, and we appreciate your support and contributions to this outstanding community. We are #Proud2bMPS!