Westside voters to be asked to approve levy override
This September, Westside voters will be asked to approve a measure allowing District 66 to raise its levy ceiling. The Board of Education’s decision to ask for a levy increase was given great consideration and based on several factors, including consistent decline in state aid and uncertainty regarding future levels of state funding. Westside remains dedicated to the efficient use of all tax dollars in support of student learning and will continue to closely monitor its spending. Westside is providing the following guide to help its stakeholders better understand this important election.
What is a levy override?
By law, the State of Nebraska sets a limit on the amount a school district may levy on properties within its boundaries to provide for general funding for the district. A school district can ask its constituents to vote whether to allow a district to collect a levy in excess of the limit.
Why has Westside asked voters to approve a levy override?
Westside Community Schools’ Board of Education requires District administration to present an annual balanced budget that supports the learning of children attending District 66 schools. In response to budget cuts to school aid by the Nebraska legislature, District 66 has made meaningful reductions to transportation programs, central administration staffing and academic programming so that it may continue to operate under a balanced budget. In these efforts, the District has reduced expenses by $10.5 million dollars over the past three years, including the elimination of 6.5 administrator positions. Despite these reductions, the District’s costs continue to rise, while state aid continues to decline. In order to maintain the District’s current level of excellence, the Board of Education has asked for taxpayers to increase the levy to help offset this shortfall.
What will this money be used for?
Funds generated from this levy override will help support the following goals of the District:
- Continuing to provide competitive compensation to our high quality teachers so that we do not lose them to neighboring, potentially higher paying, suburban districts
- Maintaining and striving for further excellence in classrooms in our neighborhood schools
- Maintaining counseling services for students with mental health/behavioral problems
- Preventing further reduction to classroom academic programs
- Preserving historically smaller class sizes
- Providing technology and digital learning for Westside learners
- Continuing career and vocational education programs
- Maintaining school library services
How will this impact taxes?
For $100,000 of assessed property, this would add an additional $4.17 per month.
How does Westside’s tax rate compare to other schools?
Westside is at the higher end when compared to other Learning Community school districts. Still, even with this proposed levy override, we would not be the highest. It is important to note that other Nebraska school districts are currently researching and/or planning levy overrides, and tax rates may change in the near future.
Is this Westside’s first levy override?
No. District 66 voters have approved four levy overrides in the past 20 years. This is the fifth levy override vote for Westside voters. Previous levy overrides have allowed the District to provide programs above and beyond what it could without a levy override. The District’s current level of academic offerings and programming has produced impressive results. In 2017, Westside High School students scored 2.3 points higher on the ACT than the state average. Class of 2017 graduates accumulated an estimated $3 million dollars in college scholarships. Additionally, 84.5% of Westside students are reading at grade level or above.
Why is District 66 asking for a levy override when voters just passed a bond in 2015?
The levy override funds will fund different expenditures than the funds from the 2015 Major Facilities Plan Bond. The 2015 Major Facilities Plan Bond can only be used for capital infrastructure projects including safety, security and the renovation or replacement of several buildings in need of repairs.
The District plans to use funds generated from the passage of a levy override for operational priorities, including continuing to provide competitive compensation to our high quality teachers so that we do not lose them to neighboring, potentially higher paying, suburban districts, maintaining excellence in classrooms, maintaining counseling services for students, maintaining classroom education programs, maintaining small classroom sizes, providing technology and digital learning for Westside children, continuing career and vocational education programs for District teachers, and maintaining school library service.
How long will the levy override last?
Five years. If approved by voters, the levy would be effective beginning FY 2019, taking effect during the 2018-2019 school year.
When is the election?
This is a mail-in election. Ballots must be received by the Douglas County Election Commission by September 12, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.
How does a mail-in ballot work?
Voters will receive a ballot in their mail from the Douglas County Election Commission sometime in mid-to-late August. To be counted, ballots must be in the possession of the Douglas County Election Commission by 5:00 p.m. on September 12, 2017. Voters may submit their ballot by mail (supplying their own stamp) or hand deliver to either the Douglas County Election Commission (located at 225 North 115th Street) or at any Douglas County Election Commission designated ballot drop box, located throughout Omaha (locations available on the Election Commission’s website http://www.votedouglascounty.com/early_voting.aspx#dropboxes).