Tax bills for residents in the Omaha school district should drop slightly, according to budget projections for the 2012-13 school year.
Overall, the Omaha Public Schools are projecting a healthier financial future than they were a year ago, when less state aid and federal stimulus funds led the school board to cut about $4 million from the budget.
For next school year, the district is expecting about the same amount of money from property taxes, but $9.5 million more in state aid will let OPS restore some budget cuts, add new positions and plan for staff salary increases.
“It is a minimal, sustaining budget,” said Dennis Pool, OPS's top finance administrator. “It's pretty much as we anticipated.”
Overall the OPS general fund budget is projected to go up about 2 percent, to $481.2 million, mostly because of the state aid jump. OPS also is expecting an additional $1.4 million in other state funds compared with last year.
The board last year passed a general budget of $470.9 million that included $2 million in leftover federal stimulus dollars.
Homeowners won't notice much of a change on tax bills
The district's total tax levy is projected to be about $1.21 per $100 of assessed valuation, down slightly from last year. That includes a Learning Community common general fund levy of 95 cents, which will be divided among the 11 metropolitan-area districts.
For the owner of a house valued for tax purposes at $150,000, the school portion of the property tax bill is projected to be $2.77 less than last year, or about $1,810.
The schools portion makes up about 55 percent of property tax bills for residents in the Omaha district.
Revenue from the district's property tax base is projected to remain flat, Pool said.
OPS expects about a half percent, or $1.4 million, more from the shared levy because of small bumps in assessed valuation elsewhere in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
Other budget changes have their roots in past years.
The district's contribution to special education also will go up because of expiring federal grants, Pool said.
OPS is adding the equivalent of 23.2 full-time positions, including about 14 to prepare for the August 2013 openings of two new schools: Gateway Elementary School at 42nd and U Streets and an as-yet-unnamed middle school at 132nd and State Streets.
Those employees likely will be hired in February or March, when the builders hand over possession of the schools to OPS, said Jon Lucas, operations supervisor.
From there the workers will clean the buildings and move furniture, desks and other supplies to the schools, Lucas said. Once the schools open, the employees will become the schools' custodial staff.
OPS also is partly restoring funding for its employees to attend conferences and workshops.
The district spent about $431,000 on that item during the 2010-11 school year. For the past school year, OPS budgeted $40,000 for conferences and workshops. For the 2012-13 school year, OPS allotted about $313,000.
In addition, the budget includes projected salary increases for staff.
The district and the Omaha Education Association, the OPS teachers union, have reached a tentative agreement, said union President Chris Proulx. No details will be released until teachers return in August and vote on the deal, he said.
It's also the first OPS budget in decades without any money dedicated to adult education. The board voted last year to cut the program, which mostly consisted of GED classes and cost $171,294 last school year.
The school board plans to schedule a public hearing on the budget before voting to adopt it in September.
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