The Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) requests the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) Board of Education work to lower the property tax levy in the next budget year.
LIBA recognizes that LPS is not currently in their budget process, however, LPS is in process of negotiating with the Lincoln Education Association (LEA) for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Personnel costs are one of the main drivers of the LPS budget. Therefore, if the LPS Board intends to lower the property tax levy it must begin with personnel costs incurred now.
Lincoln is home to a great school system and some of the best public schools in Nebraska[i]. The Lincoln community is tremendously supportive of our public schools. In 2014 the community approved a $153 million bond issue with 67% approval rate[ii]. Currently, LPS is building a new Career Academy with significant backing of many Lincoln businesses who have promised to provide equipment, expertise, and funding. After receiving so much continued support from Lincoln, it is time for LPS and the LPS Board to show its support and appreciation of the Lincoln community by lowering the tax levy.
Using LPS research, here is how teacher pay compared with similar districts in the 2013-14 school year.
Teacher Base Pay Added Earnings Class Cover Pay
Shawnee Mission, KS $39,240 $20.00 hour
Lincoln, NE $39,143 $36.27
Kansas City, KS $39,072 $20.72 hour
Olathe, KS $38,834 $20.00 hour
Blue Valley, KS $38,583 $16.00 hour
Wichita, KS $38,378 $20.00 - $25.00 hour
Des Moines, IA $37,821 $0
North K.C., MO $37,718 $22.00 hour
Omaha, NE $35,256 $24.80 hour
Springfield, MO $34,088 Pro-Rata
Sioux Falls, SD $33,299 $28.03
According to LPS research, starting base pay for LPS teachers in 2014-2015 is $4,300 above Omaha Public Schools[iii] and $4,000 above Millard’s[iv]. That is just base pay, this gap widens as salary is increased due to years of service and annual raises. Further, LPS gives teachers twice the amount of planning time as similar Nebraska school districts[v], shorter instructional days than comparable districts[vi], class cover pay that is $12 an hour above that paid in Omaha[vii], and unlimited accumulation of leave[viii].
This is not to say that LPS should pay teachers less, we are saying that since we are now at the top regarding pay and some benefits, that it is time to prioritize a tax cut for Lincoln. A common argument against lowering the tax levy is that if the levy is lowered, the averaging adjustment in the state aid formula will significantly reduce state funding. LIBA is well aware of this problem and in 2013 LIBA supported a legislative bill to eliminate the averaging adjustment. Though the bill has not yet passed, LIBA is willing to work with LPS on future legislation. Fortunately, in the interim, LPS can lower its levy by $.01 from $1.05 to $1.04 without triggering the averaging adjustment.
Right now there is great momentum in LPS. We can be proud that the district compensates teachers very well, is building new facilities, remodeling old facilities and implementing technology. It is time to recognize the “community” behind this momentum. Now is the time to give-back to the community by planning to lower the tax levy and keeping taxpayer dollars in the taxpayer’s pocket.
[i] “Best Public High Schools in Nebraska” 2015 Niche Rankings; https://k12.niche.com/rankings/public-high-schools/best-overall/s/nebraska/
[ii] Lancaster County Election Commissioner; Election Results; Lincoln Public Schools Special Bond Election; http://lancaster.ne.gov/election/results/lps0214.htm
[iii] 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources
[iv] 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources
[v] 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources
[vi] 2013-2014 Comparability Information; Compiled by LPS Human Resources
[vii] 2014-2015 Settlements for Neighboring and Omaha Metro School Districts; Compiled by LPS Human Resources
[viii] 2013-2014 CIR Leaves and Other Conditions; Compiled by LPS Human Resources