Appropriate Education Spending
The LIBA School Liaison Committee had me testify on a couple bills at the Nebraska Legislature this past month. I thought I would share their thoughts on these issues with the readers of this column.
First, LIBA opposed LB247 which affected a special levy controlled by Lincoln Public Schools. The QCPUF levy was allowed by the state to deal with problems like Asbestos, mold and other environmental and health hazards. The taxpayers have solved many of the problems in our local school districts and paid, through taxes, to solve the problems.
This is a tax that could go away someday.
Rather than let this tax go away, LB247 expands the use of the tax. It would allow schools to use the tax for cyber security issues, which would almost ensure that this tax will never go away.
Last year, the lid for QCPUF was lowered from 5.2 cents to 3 cents, but it grandfathered projects that were already started. It appears to us that this bill would allow schools to include cyber security at the higher 5.2 cent tax because they were working on cyber security prior to April 2016.
The fiscal note says that schools would be subject to the 3-cent lid, but does not address grandfathering. Even if cyber security is not grandfathered in, because cyber security is an ongoing issue, it would mean that this tax never goes away.
We certainly support our school districts spending money on cyber security. The staff and the students deserve to have a secure environment for sensitive documents, personal information, and general use. However, tapping a special levy that is outside the tax lid is not the best way to pay for it.
Finally, the use of QCPUF allows districts to tax and Bond without a vote of the people. Last year, in April of 2016, the Shickley school board used QCPUF as a way bond and circumvented a vote of the people. Their superintendent, Bryce Jorgenson, was quoted as saying “the QCPUF route also allows us to NOT have to go to a vote…”
LB554 is another bill that LIBA addressed. We supported this bill because it would increase transparency regarding school district budgets. Lincolnites give approximately 60% of their property taxes to the Lincoln Public School System (LPS) and ESU, but we don’t know where those tax dollars go. This bill moves our school systems toward more transparency. Every district in Nebraska should support transparency.
LIBA also suggested that this bill be amended so that every check written is posted on a school district’s website. That would be true transparency. LIBA gave the Senators copies of a document from the Millard Public Schools website. The document showed that during this particular month MPS posted every check, from $7 to $73,000 for the public to view on the internet.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining LIBA, please call me at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.
For more information on LIBA, visit Liba.org.