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Voters in Orchard approved a 1 1/2 percent increase in sales tax on Tuesday during a special election, which had a 50 percent voter turnout with 126 ballots cast.
Of the ballots, 85.71 percent were in favor of the sales tax with 14.29 percent against. There were 82.54 percent in favor of using the sales tax for economic development and 17.46 percent against.
Results are unofficial until the Antelope County Canvassing Board meets Wednesday.
Ballots were mailed out to all registered voters within Orchard village limits March 1 in the special election for a proposed 1½ percent sales tax.
Ballots can be returned in person to the Antelope County Clerk’s office or mailed back, but they must be received by March 12.
The ballot will have two separate questions, the first being about the 1½ percent sales tax, and the second regarding designating 50 percent of those funds to economic development within LB 840.
If passed, Orchard would impose a 1½ percent sales tax with allocation and use of 50 percent of the tax revenue for any project or program providing direct or indirect financial assistance to qualifying businesses. Businesses seeking low-interest loans from the sales tax collected would go through a loan review process similar to that of a bank, along with other loan requirements.
Orchard is just one of a handful of area communities not already collecting a sales tax for economic development. Neighboring communities of Clearwater and Neligh approved LB 840 plans several years ago and have already begun offering low-interest loans that have led to new businesses and job creation.
Unlike property taxes, sales tax is collected from anyone who spends money inside village limits, regardless of whether they are a resident of Orchard.
Orchard eighth-grader Levi Cronk has qualified for the Nebraska State Geography Bee.
Cronk will compete Friday, March 29, at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
The state champion will advance to the National Geographic GeoBee Championship May 19-22 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. This year, the national champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a trip to the Galápagos Islands. Second- and third-place winners receive a $10,000 and $5,000 college scholarship, respectively, and $1,000 cash prize.
The Allied Health Department at Northeast Community College in Norfolk has announced a free, one-session workshop for emergency medical service technicians in Orchard.
. The Diabetic Emergencies class will be Tuesday, March 19, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Orchard Fire Hall. The workshop is offered for three continuing education credits. There is no need to pre-register.
This program is funded in whole or in part with funds provided through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Office of Emergency Health System.
For additional information, call the Allied Health Department, Northeast Community College at (402) 844-7702.
Residents in Orchard will be voting on a 1.5 percent sales tax on March 12. Voters can look for ballots in the mail on March 1.
The Orchard Economic Development Association is holding an informational meeting Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theater to answer questions about the proposed sales tax and special election.
The Orchard United Methodist Church will host a pancake feed on Sunday, March 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Methodist Fellowship Hall.
The pancake feed will include pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee for a free will offering. Proceeds will go to fund mission work and youth summer camps.
Call Jeff Shabram at 402-893-3033 with any questions.
Orchard, Clearwater and Ewing could vote as early as Monday night to consolidate the three school districts into one.
A community meeting Wednesday at Orchard Public School offered a variety of comments, concerns and questions about the future of the district, as well as what will happen Monday during a 7 p.m. joint meeting in Ewing between Orchard, Clearwater and Ewing. There are three possible action items on the agenda — OCE sports/activity COOP beginning 2019-20, school consolidation and proceeding with an RFP for an architect, construction manager at risk company and a financial agent.
“I believe it’s consolidation contingent on a bond, which means we will consolidate if you people pass a bond,” explained board President Candice Hoke.
That means the three boards would approve a consolidation, but the consolidation would not be finalized unless the public voted in favor of building a new school. The feasibility study showed a new school would be needed if the three schools consolidated; however, if just two consolidated, a new school may not be needed.
It was explained at the meeting that to move forward, each board must pass the same motion for consolidation. When asked if Orchard’s board voted 3-3, Hoke said that motion would fail. She said a majority of each board would have to be in favor of the motion for it to move forward, meaning a minimum of a 4-2 vote is needed.
If a three-school merger is not approved by all three boards, two boards could offer a new motion Monday for a two-school merger and leave the third school behind. The agenda item states discussion and possible action on school consolidation, but it does not specify two or three schools. Hoke said Orchard could be left behind if it does not vote in favor of consolidation.
“We have two neighboring partners that want to move forward and have been pretty clear about that and have invited us to do the same. If we don’t agree to do that, I have reason to believe they will move forward without us,” Hoke said.
The board was asked what would happen to Orchard if Clearwater and Ewing voted to consolidate without Orchard. Superintendent Dale Martin said there would likely be movement of students, though it would be hard to know who that would be or when it would happen. The biggest con, he said, would be Orchard becoming an island.
“That would be one of my biggest fears to some extent, if Orchard would be on an island and not have a partner with any of this, whether it’s sharing staff of sharing sports activity programs. Our numbers aren’t big enough in Orchard to fill full teams. In some areas, we’re already short between two schools in some areas,” he said.
When asked who Orchard could co-op with if Clearwater and Ewing moved forward without Orchard, Principal Cathy Cooper said per instruction from the board, she made phone calls to Plainview, Creighton and St. Mary’s about possible co-ops. She said it was presented as an idea and not as a request, so no schools specified whether or not they were interested.
A patron responded to that by saying a key issue that led to Orchard and Clearwater no longer being one school was transportation. She said driving 15 miles was an issue for parents, so she didn’t understand why now Orchard was considering a 30-minute commute.
Looking at the financial aspect, Martin showed the audience that Orchard’s levy would be nearly the same no matter if it consolidated or was alone, ranging from .49 to .52. But Clearwater and Ewing would see dramatic differences in their levies without Orchard. However, if Orchard unified with Verdigre, the levy would increase to .68
Projected general levies (not including the bond for a new school) are as follows:
Clearwater-Orchard consolidated: .5040
Orchard-Ewing consolidated: .4938
Clearwater-Ewing consolidated: .6103
Clearwater-Ewing-Orchard consolidated: .5102
Orchard-Verdigre Unified: .6860
Orchard Alone: .52
Another concern was staffing because many teachers and staff, including some with families, would lose their jobs. Cooper said 17.5 fewer faculty would be needed and roughly that many staff, leaving about 35 people without jobs in the three communities. Those numbers are only estimates.
There was also concern of what would happen to the current buildings in the three communities. Laura Ferguson, board member of the Orchard Economic Development Association, said each community has organizations that could assist with buildings.
Several patrons talked about the number of students for class sizes and athletic classification. With a three-school merger, the new school would likely be Class C2 but not have more than 40 students per class, which Rachael Cheatum said isn’t as big as some may think. Cheatum attended Page through junior high and Orchard in high school, graduating in 1996.
“Our three schools together are going to be what Orchard was 30 years ago when we were all in school, and none of us thought Orchard was very big. I know you all thought Page was really little, and I had 13 kids in my class,” she said. “I think that might be our biggest class here now. Looking at that way now, I didn’t think Orchard was big, and we had 23 maybe in my graduating class here….We’re talking about having classes of up to 40 kids. That’s going to be what we all went to school with.”
Board member Terra Williby said she’s not ready to vote in favor of consolidation until she has more information on building costs, which are only estimates at this time. A new building could add up to 17 cents on the levy, which would make it .68 for Orchard-Clearwater-Ewing. Both Orchard and Clearwater currently have a levy of .64, so a new school could raise their current levy four cents with 2018 valuations.
Board member Kristi Schutt said she is in favor of moving forward with a vote of the public on consolidation with a bond but not simply consolidation. She also wants a clear Plan B on what to do if a vote fails. Bond votes could potentially happen every six months, according to the board.
“We still have to have a Plan B in case a bond does not pass. It has to pass in all three communities, so we need input also on what is our Plan B from everyone,” Schutt said.
Few audience members specifically told board members whether they wanted to move forward or not with consolidation, but several asked the board to put the decision in the hands of the public and let them decide. To do that, they said, the board would have to vote in favor of consolidation contingent on a bond vote.
“I hope you guys vote to give us — the community — the option to vote if we want it or not. I guess I would really appreciate that you at least let us decide if we can vote on that,” one patron said.
Residents in the Orchard district have until noon Monday to answer a survey question telling the board if they favor or are against consolidation with Clearwater and Ewing. Surveys can be turned into the Orchard office until noon.
Watch the entire meeting:
View the slides presented:
Orchard Public School hosted moms, grandmas, sisters, aunts and friends for an afternoon of celebrating kindness at the annual Munchies with Mom event the afternoon of Wednesday, February 13.
The students PK-6 shared ways their moms showed them kindness in a video, and afterwards, everyone worked together to spread kindness to the community.
Families decorated paper grocery sacks from TJ’s Market with phrases of love and kindness, and the sacks were returned to the store to be used. Customers will be able to enjoy hand-written notes and drawings on their grocery sacks.
OPS encourages students and families to spread kindness within their home, school and community.