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Monday, May 2, 2016

Tightening our belts in tough times

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last week, the Legislature made a difficult step toward balancing the budget by advancing LB 235 to select file. LB 235 reduces state aid to schools to approximately $822 million for next year -- down from $950 million this year -- and $880 million the following year. The bill advanced 41 to 0, with my support.

What is a little misleading is that the state contribution to state aid to schools actually increased, while the federal contribution to state aid decreased enough for an overall decrease in funding. This was due to the large amount of onetime federal dollars we received previously, which we could not fully make up because of the revenue shortfall.

Though we don't like cutting aid to schools, state aid to schools is about one quarter of the state's budget, which has a projected budget shortfall just shy of $950 million; reality required us to make the necessary cuts to schools.

In its basic form, the formula is Needs minus Resources equals State Equalization Aid. The Local Effort Rate, which is the majority of a school district's total calculated resources, was raised in the formula from $1.00 to $1.395. This raise in the formula, fewer students, and the rise in farmland valuations increased everyone's local resources to fund schools. This has given District 44 six non-equalized school districts out of 14 districts that do not receive equalization aid from the state, because their local resources are now greater than their needs.

Technically, District 44 now has five school districts that are non-equalized, but I went ahead and counted Dundy County/Stratton Public Schools to make it six, because their equalization aid of $362.27 was close to zero.

Though I understand this is not easy for schools, I know we in Southwest Nebraska are confident people of ingenuity who can tighten our spending belts when tough times come and still move forward improving our schools.

If you have comments, concerns, or questions about this bill or any other issue, please, call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/.

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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