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Gering school budget remains steady
September 17, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Members of Gering School Board met Monday evening to approve $28,358,497 for its upcoming 2015-2016 budget year. That figure also includes some of the existing balances from depreciation and other funds.

“As a district, we’re heavily reliant on state aid to education,” said Gering Schools Business Manager Tim Meisner. “This year it’s about nine million three hundred thousand, a decrease of about $500,000 from last year. Fortunately, our cash value went up about 6.3 percent.”

Gering’s proposed property tax request for the upcoming year is $7,556,111. That includes about $561,000 of bond funding in grades K-12 and just over $100,000 in technology bond funding. The proposed tax rate was set at 1.049999 cents.

Gering School Superintendent Bob Hastings said the district’s tax asking went up slightly to offset the reduction in state aid, but the overall budget remains almost static with revenues down slightly from last year.
“We need to rebuild our cash reserve so we can deal with emergencies,” Hastings said. “Over the past few years we’ve been transferring funds from other accounts to pay for needed items. This will be our second year without deficit spending. Over the past 10 years or so, our state aid has been flat.”
Hastings said the district always strives to build the most conservative budget possible while still meeting the district’s needs. Ideally, the district’s reserves should be able to cover approximately three months of expenditures, or about $4.5 million for Gering.

“We understand there’s a burden placed on taxpayers in Nebraska and the Legislature continues to address the challenge of state aid to schools,” he said. “We want to be a part of that solution so it’s a real solution that doesn’t just create new problems. But Nebraska isn’t one of the higher spending states when it comes to education.”

Board President Alan Doll said depletion in the district’s reserves aren’t the result of spending money they don’t have. “This is money the district already has, but we had to shuffle funding from different accounts to take care of necessary expenses. We were basically spending our savings. Now we need to build that back up, which will probably take several years because we’re so dependent on state aid. Nine million out of a 20 million dollar budget is a big chunk.”

Hastings said the district streamlined its budget in part by reducing four full time teacher positions through attrition. The district also deferred its curriculum purchases for two years and reduced technology purchases. Individual building budgets were also reduced. Overall, it cut about $1.2 million over the next two years.
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