For the second year in a row, the Omaha Public Schools got more revenue under the Learning Community’s shared tax system than the district would have gotten without it.

Also gaining more money from the system were the Millard, Westside and Ralston school districts. The same four districts gained last year.

The seven other districts in the metro Omaha education cooperative lost money to the system.

The winners and losers are identified in an annual financial analysis released by the Learning Community.

The analysis compares how much money each district received in property taxes and state aid for 2015-16 with how much it would have received under the former tax system.

The shared system was first implemented for the 2010-11 school year.

Property taxes are pooled and state aid is calculated as if the 11 districts were a single district. Money collected through the common levy is distributed to member districts according to a state-needs formula.

Under the former system, districts kept the property taxes generated within their boundaries, and state equalization aid was calculated separately for each individual district. Districts outside the Learning Community still use that system.

For 2015-16, the Omaha Public Schools came out ahead by more than $2.1 million, the most of any district. Last year the district gained $1.59 million. Every year before that, the district had been a loser.

OPS school board President Lou Ann Goding said Friday the system is finally working as intended.

“I think the great thing is the common levy is starting to work. This is what it was intended to do ... to provide assistance where poverty exists,” Goding said.

Last year 73.3 percent of the children in OPS were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, based on family income.

She said the common levy took effect as the country was heading into an economic downturn.

“Now that the valuations are changing a little bit, it’s getting us where we had anticipated we would be a number of years past,” she said.

Millard school board member Mike Pate, who serves on the Learning Community Council, said the system is not working.

The system should not create winners and losers, Pate said.

“Is it finally working now that OPS is winning, now that they’re getting more money? If it is, then that’s not the right approach,” he said.

Pate said Nebraska needs a statewide solution to helping all districts educate children in poverty.

Kevin Riley, superintendent of Gretna Public Schools, said the money moved around by the system doesn’t begin to address the needs of metro districts in educating kids in poverty.

“Two million dollars doesn’t touch the poverty needs of OPS,” Riley said. “The common levy can’t and will not address issues of poverty. That’s why superintendents have sought a state solution.”

The majority of superintendents in Learning Community school districts have proposed doing away with the common levy and replacing it with increased state aid for all districts across the state with students in poverty.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1077, joe.dejka@owh.com

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