Metropolitan area property owners won't get much of a break on school taxes next year.
Unless, that is, the crummy economy caused their homes or businesses to lose value for tax purposes.
After a flurry of school district budget approvals Monday night, the trend is toward steady or slightly higher property tax rates.
Ten of 11 metro school boards have approved 2012-13 budgets. Omaha school board members are scheduled to consider their budget next Monday.
All budgets are built upon a 95-cent common general fund levy that the Learning Community Council is expected to approve later this month. That levy generates the bulk of the property tax revenue received by the 11 member school districts, based on a formula that accounts for each one's needs. Districts can add to that, subject to some restrictions.
The levy will stay at $1.26 per $100 of valuation as the district faces “pretty flat” revenues, its finance officer said. That's $1,260 in taxes on a $100,000 house.
Papillion-La Vista, the state's fourth-largest district, has 10,415 students.
The general fund budget is set at $113.9 million, up 3.9 percent from $109.6 million last year, said Doug Lewis, the district's assistant superintendent for business.
Residents will have a chance in the November general election to add 4.2 cents to their levy through a bond issue. The school board voted in July to put the $59.4 million bond issue on the ballot. It would pay for a new middle school, a new elementary school and various other renovations and improvements.
The district that serves Bellevue and the Offutt Air Force Base community will again have the lowest tax rate among the 11 districts in the Learning Community.
The rate will stay at $1.05, said district spokeswoman Amanda Anderson. At that rate, the tax bill is $1,050 on a $100,000 house.
With an enrollment a little more than 10,000, Bellevue will see its general fund spending rise to nearly $100 million. That's an increase of $4.6 million or 4.8 percent.
The tax rate in this small southern Sarpy County district will remain the second-lowest in the Learning Community, behind Bellevue.
The tax rate will be $1.08 for this district of 1,005 students. That is $1,080 on a $100,000 house.
The rate is essentially the same as last year, Superintendent Brett Richards said. The district's budget rises to $13.5 million, a 1.5 percent increase over last year.
The highlight of this year's budget is an initiative to get iPads into students' hands. It adds $290,000 to the budget. Officials say they've tried to protect class sizes by not cutting into staffing.
Bennington residents will see a 1-cent increase in their school property tax rate.
The growing district's tax rate will increase to about $1.40 per $100 of property valuation. That translates to an additional $10 a year for a home valued at $100,000, or a total of $1,400.
Superintendent Terry Haack said the increase will go toward the three bond issues that area voters have approved in the past decade and to help make up for slightly lower-than-typical increases in property tax valuations. Those valuations are up 5.5 percent, down from the 7.7 percent average growth of the past several years.
Spending — fueled by the opening of a new elementary school this fall — will increase by about 12.8 percent in the 2012-13 school year. That will put the district's general fund budget at $14.9 million, up roughly $1.7 million from last year.
Roughly 7.25 percent of the spending increase will go to cover the new elementary school, Haack said. The district's K-12 enrollment is up 7 percent.
Taxes will increase a penny, to $1.27. On a $100,000 house, that's $1,270 in property taxes.
The general fund budget increases to $30.9 million, up 0.59 percent.
Brad Dahl, assistant superintendent for business, attributes the increase to the rising cost of health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, negotiated compensation package for teachers and transportation.
Ralston's state aid decreased by $45,000, he said.
“Overall, I think things are getting really tight,” Dahl said.
Douglas County West
Both last year's budget and the one that the school board approved Monday for 2012-13 are approximately $12 million, said Superintendent Dan Schnoes. The tax rate of 1.096 translates to a bill of $1,096 on a $100,000 house.
Spending will dip marginally. The district had a couple of early retirements and did not replace one elementary staff member.
The Elkhorn Public Schools' property tax levy will hold steady for the third consecutive year at $1.31 per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a home valued at $100,000 will pay $1,310 in annual school taxes.
The levy, which the school board approved Monday, comes despite an enrollment increase of nearly 7.2 percent and as the district prepares to open two more elementary schools next fall.
Superintendent Steve Baker said officials told voters before they approved a $49.1 million bond issue last November that they might see levy increases of 2 cents or more for the first three years. But a property tax valuation increase of 4.51 percent and an infusion of general fund monies allowed the district to avoid a levy increase for 2012-13.
“We were able to not raise the levy at this time,” Baker said. “And that's great news.”
District spending will increase 5.96 percent to nearly $58 million, up about $3.3 million. The budget includes the equivalent of 21 new teachers and 6.5 support staff.
Residents of this fast-growing school district will see a 5.2-cent increase in the school tax rate.
The district's total tax levy will grow to $1.39 per $100 of property tax valuation. For homeowners, that means a tax bill of $1,390 for a $100,000 house, an additional $52 a year or about $4 a month, said Superintendent Kevin Riley.
The increase reflects the impact of the district's November 2010 bond issue. This year's increase along with last year's 3-cent bump puts the levy right where district officials had told residents it would be, Riley said.
The $35.8 million bond issue was for a new elementary school, additions to the high school and bus barn, land acquisition and technology improvements.
Spending for 2012-13 will increase by 7.1 percent to $32.4 million under the new budget.
The opening of the new elementary school this fall accounts for about half the increase, he said.
The Westside Community Schools will increase spending by 4.1 percent, or about $2.8 million, in 2012-13.
Under a budget the school board approved Monday, the district's general fund budget will grow to $71.2 million next year, up from roughly $68.4 million last year.
Westside has not yet set its property tax levy for next year. A public hearing on a proposed property tax request is scheduled for Sept. 24.
The budget includes about $1.1 million for voluntary separation payments for people who retire with at least 20 years of service. The district decided to accelerate the payments to retirees before a state-imposed budget exemption expires in September 2013, said Andy Rikli, assistant superintendent of administrative operations. Other significant increases came in staff salaries and benefits, which totaled about $1.86 million.
The district also cut the equivalent of five full-time employees, including one full-time position in central office administration. The district reduced staffing by the equivalent of 12 positions last year.
Property owners in the state's third-largest district will see their tax levy remain steady at $1.21. That's $1,210 in taxes on a $100,000 house.
The $208 million budget represents a 1.25 percent decrease from the current year's $210.7 million.
The district has nearly 23,000 students.
Property valuation decreased one-tenth of a percent, a rare occurrence, said Ken Fossen, the district's chief financial officer.
The district has been shrinking staff through attrition, he said.
Also, officials reduced the cash reserve by $1.5 million and deferred $4 million in summer maintenance and repair projects, Fossen said.
District officials are likely to try again next spring to pass a bond issue, he said. The timing and size have not been determined.