UPDATE: Superintendent Scott Gregory said on Wednesday that he will address the levy difference on Oct. 9 during the next school board meeting.
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Neligh-Oakdale raised its levy Monday night, but it’s uncertain how the district will proceed since the budget information published had discrepancies from what previously had been filed with the state.
Each district is required by state statute to publish its final tax request information, which includes a comparison from the previous year. The data Neligh-Oakdale published from 2016-17 did not match what was filed last year with the state auditor.
The information published included discrepancies with the qualified capital purpose undertaking fund. According to the published information, the levy increase this year would be just 3.66 percent, going from a .884473 levy to .916912.
According to the Nebraska Auditor’s website, Neligh-Oakdale’s levy in 2016-17 was filed as .860402, which would make the levy increase this year nearly double what was published — 6.56 percent.
The Nebraska Department of Education said Neligh-Oakdale may have to hold a second public hearing after republishing the correct notice of tax request. After learning of the discrepancy late Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Scott Gregory said he would contact the Nebraska Department of Education for instruction on how to proceed.
Much of Monday’s board hearing and meeting was spent discussing the budget, which Gregory said would increase by just over 3 percent. Neligh-Oakdale has increased its general fund more than 22 percent since 2014-15.
While this year’s general fund increase will be just under a half million dollars in 2017-18, there was no money put into the building fund.
”The committee felt that there was adequate money in that account,” Gregory said during the meeting. “And I think the people in Lincoln really need to understand that we are doing the best we can with this level of expenses.”
Gregory said different factors taken into consideration for the 2017-18 budget. He said the state only allows a 1½ percent growth rate for the next two years, so it was important for the school to increase its budget. Despite receiving more state aid this year than in recent years ($49,774), Gregory said the aid given is still too low.
The board talked at length about the tax increase/. Cory Furstenau said it is for our community to know where the money's coming from and that they are concerned not only for the school but the taxpayers. Ryan Koinzan added that the improvements they have made compared to the original budget.
“The first meeting we lowered the budget quite a bit from what Scott first came to the table with,” Koinzan said. “We were kind of hard on him, but I think at the end of the day the idea was to become more efficient and have a budget we can live with. I have pretty good confidence that is what we came out with.”
Along with the concerning tax increase, board members discussed enrollment concerns, primarily how they impacted Neligh-Oakdale’s football classification and possible qualification for playoffs.
Beginning this year, NSAA will count only boys in a school, grades 9-11. To qualify for eight-man plays, no more than 47 boys can be in the school. Currently, Neligh-Oakdale has 45 boys.
“The numbers bounce around,” Principal George Loofe said. “Our enrollment can change 15 students in a year from September to May. We really can’t determine what the numbers will be.”
Looking past the number concerns, Gregory brought to the board a proposal from Neligh Economic Director Gabe Steinmeyer. Steinmeyer request the board to travel to the Columbus High School to hold a special meeting to tour the facility, take a look at the curriculum and explore their STEM academy.
“After hearing the discussion of the school board and the talks, I thought it would be interesting to arrange to explore options and do some research into what could happen if this goes through. It was just right time, right place,” he explained.
Also addressed by the board was disposal of buses. The school currently has two buses they are looking to dispose of and are required to provide equal opportunity to the public. The board decided to auction one bus on the online website Big Iron and then reevaluate how to dispose of future items.
The next board meeting is scheduled for October 9 at 7 p.m.