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Sidney Public Schools set 2016-17 budget


Sidney Public Schools (SPS) Board of Education held its monthly meeting Monday, approving 2016-17 school budget.

Sidney Superintendent Jay Ehler said Sidney’s fiscal year spans from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. Ehler said he and the SPS business manager spent quite a bit of time in July and early August composing the budget for the year.

The budget was then reviewed and worked on with the aid of the board’s finance committee, which is comprised of three of the six school board members.

Ehler said SPS receives its tax valuations around August 20 from the Cheyenne County clerk. The valuations take the collective amount of taxable value from property in the Sidney school district.

This year’s taxable amount is $757,945,853. Sidney is requesting $7,958,431 from property tax this year, with a tax rate levy of $1.05. This year’s proposed property request is up from the 2015-16 request of 7,712,476.00.

The approved tax request makes up a general fund, added to that general fund number is a Qualified Capitol Purpose Fund (QCPUF) of $199,000, and the Bond Fund for $621,000 for a total budget number of $8,778,431, just up from last years budget of $8,672,045.

“QCPUF is normally used for school improvements, such as a new roof, or boiler, for example. If there is an emergency, we are allowed to levy up to 2.5 percent without a vote of the people,” Ehler said.

In an effort to keep track of school spending Nebraska Legislature passed LB 959 this year. LB 959 is a property tax bill that brings a change in the budgeting process. The bill simplifies budget growth to 2.5 percent, plus expected student growth.

Ehler said every month the SPS School Board reviews the schools budget and keeps track of spending.

“Our business manager has her eyes on the budget everyday and I have my eyes on it continuously, and school board members see where we are prior to each school board meeting,” Ehler said.

The school board reviews each month’s bills payable, local district taxes, revenue, expenditures, cash balances, payroll funds, bank reconciliation, lunch accounts, activity funds, and outstanding checks.

“One of the main jobs of the school board is watching over the taxpayers’ money and at the same time making sure the school operates effectively,” Ehler said.

A budget hearing for the approval of SPS 2016-17 budget was held Monday evening in the District Administration Building in Sidney.

“I think it’s valuable for taxpayers to know, we did pay the QCPUF K-8 off early. It was set to be paid off in 10 years and we paid it off in eight years. I would like to say we were responsible with the taxpayers’ money and got something paid off a year early, so now we do not have to levy for it this year,” Ehler said.

Another significant part of the budget Ehler said was the fact that taxpayers are only seeing a .01 percent increase between last year’s budget and this year’s budget.

“I can guarantee you that our costs for the year are going to go up more the .01 percent, they will go up at least 1.5 percent. So even though SPS is seeing an increase the taxpayers are seeing a very minute increase,” Ehler said.

“This is four years in a row we have lowered our overall levy. In 2012-13 was $1.205, we went down a little each year and now are at a $1.05. We are doing our very best to try and find other ways to save the taxpayers money,” Ehler said.

It’s hard to reduce school budget Ehler said, with payroll making up 80 percent of it. “Unless we make cuts to personnel and increase student teacher ratio there’s not a lot we can do to reduce the budget.”

“Even with the changes in town we are currently only down eleven students from last year, our expenses aren’t really down for the year, ” Ehler said.

Ehler said for the most part the allocation of funds from the budget stays the same, unless more is needed in one area or another.

“Keeping property taxes down has been a goal of this board, we try to keep the levy down because we understand that property taxes a tough. So we do the best we can to keep it at a minimum,” Ehler said.


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