The Ralston Public Schools went into the last school year facing a $2.7 million shortfall.
The district addressed it with a series of cuts, the largest of which was a reduction of 50 staff members through early retirement, attrition and four layoffs.
On Monday, the Ralston school board approved a $30.2 million operating budget that, factoring in those staff reductions, is about $523,000 less than last year’s budget.
The property tax levy — $1.27 per $100 of assessed value, or $1,270 for the owner of a $100,000 home — is also down a fraction from last year.
Brad Dahl, assistant superintendent of business, said the district benefited from a $265,000 increase in state aid. But the district will get $640,000 less from the Learning Community common levy.
Linda Richards, the school board president, said the district is “biting at as much as we can without affecting (our) mission” of educating students.
But she said she knows the district is getting close to that when it considers postponing textbook and technology upgrades, as it will this year.
District officials recently told area state senators that the Learning Community’s formula doesn’t account for Ralston’s growing needs. The number of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches has increased 30 percent in the past 10 years.
Ralston’s property tax valuation was down 1.9 percent this year.
Budgets for all schools in the Learning Community are built on a 95-cent common general fund levy that was approved this month. That levy generates the bulk of the property tax revenue for the 11 member school districts. Districts can add to that levy, subject to restrictions.
Ralston’s teachers will get raises this year; the total benefits package increased a bit more than 3 percent.
The Douglas County West Community Schools also will operate on a lower budget this year than last year.
The school board Monday OK’d a general fund budget of nearly $11.9 million, down a little more than 1 percent from last year’s $12.6 million.
Dan Schnoes, the superintendent, said the district trimmed expenses because it got less money from the Learning Community and federal government.
The district’s property tax levy — at a little less than $1.09 for each $100 of value — will drop about a half-cent.
The district’s K-12 enrollment, 746, is up about 7 percent, or about 60 students.