The Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved its budget and property tax request for the 2021-2022 school year during a meeting Monday evening, which includes nearly $31 million in total budget authority.
BPS Superintendent Jason Alexander said the goals of the budget cycle are to finance educational programs that support the best interest of the students, adjust the general fund and building fund to accommodate future building needs, maintain an appropriate revenue stream in light of projected state aid revenue loss, recognize the continued burden on property tax owners, and maintain roughly four months of cash reserves.
Alexander explained that the state aid portion of the budget is determined by the Tax Equity Educational Opportunity Support Act or TEEOSA formula, which looks at the district’s needs and subtracts from the resources they already have to equalize the budget.
“The last three years, our state aid has been up, and I will say primarily the reason for that is because our valuations have not increased much,” Alexander said. “So that leads us to a pretty strong prediction that because of the increase this year of 4.15%, we will expect to see a continued decrease in state aid next year. Because it’s just a very well-known fact that as your valuations go up, your state aid is going down. The fact of the matter is, property tax payers get penalized even more for valuations going higher, because the state doesn’t necessarily fill in that gap.”
Alexander explained that valuations were certified in August at $1,298,995,241. He said for the 2020-2021 budget, valuations were $1,247,000,000, an increase of roughly 4.15%.
Of that valuation, Alexander said 5.1% came from personal property taxes, 5% centrally assessed, 37.2% from agriculture property, and 52.6% from residential property in the district.
For the budget authority, Alexander said $25,041,489 has been approved by the Nebraska Department of Education this year, with an additional $486,614 in prior unused authority, $4,990,000 in special education funding, and $300,000 in cash reserves.
“Now, the important thing to understand here is although we have $30 million worth of budget authority expenditure, we could never spend that much. Well, we could spend that much, but you’d all be very unhappy with me if we spent that much, because our revenue will not cover that…We have a revenue side of the budget that will equal that $30 million, but it’s all estimated on what revenues you expect to get in,” Alexander said. “That can fluctuate, just based on how taxes come and go.”
Alexander said total revenue, before taxes, is expected to be $30,513,083, allowing $5-6 million budgeted in cash reserves.
In the property tax hearing, Alexander said that the district operates on a $1.05 tax levy limit. He said historically, BPS pays less per pupil than the state average, which was $12,952 and $13,558, respectively, for the 2019-2020 school year.
Alexander said a property tax rate of .943646 is expected to generate $12,257,922 in general funds, a 10.6 cent tax levy will generate $1,381,413 for the special building fund, and an additional tax of 2.6 cents to generate $338,384 for the Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund or QCPUF bond. He said the total tax levy decreased by roughly .004064 cents.
Alexander noted that of the general funds collected, roughly $122,579 goes to the Gage County treasurer’s balance for assessing and collecting those taxes.
“Our 2021-2022 general fund amount was $12,198,000 that what we get to actually keep,” Alexander said. “Subtract the $12,135,343, the difference is we have $62,657 less going into our general fund than we did a year ago. We’ll see where we’re at, but we think we’ll be able to manage that.”
While officially adopting the budget, board member Doris Martin said the total operating budget for BPS is an increase of 6.02% from last years’ budget.
Alexander said the budget and tax levies will be submitted to the state for final approval.