NORFOLK, NE – In the twenty years since the Nebraska Legislature set a maximum tax levy on local governmental entities, the Northeast Community College Board of Governors has never set a levy that is close to what is allowed by the law. This year is no exception.
On Tuesday, the board gave unanimous approval to the College’s 2017-18 budgets, which includes a decrease of 0.43 percent in the total levy. This is the fourth consecutive year the levy has been lowered. The action took place following a public hearing during the board’s monthly meeting here.
The total levy for all funds of 9.09 cents, which includes the two-cent building improvement levy, is down from 9.13 in 2016-17. The maximum levy allowed by the state is 11.25 cents per $100 of valuation. The property tax levy on the general operating budget of $46,643,776 has been decreased from 7.13 cents per $100 valuation in 2016-17 to 7.09 in 2017-18.
Dr. Terry Nelson, West Point, chairperson of the Board of Governors, said the board not only considered a budget on Tuesday, but approved a “plan” in meeting the needs of students, business and industry and of the region.
“The board’s fiduciary responsibility is not just looking at monitoring the levy, it’s about continuing to build a skilled workforce in Nebraska. The state’s community colleges were established by the Legislature to deliver applied technology and occupational education, transfer education, economic and community development, and applied research. We are ensuring that this continues through the board’s goals and objectives found in Northeast’s Vision 2020 strategic plan – increasing student success and, access, provide a globally competitive workforce and develop and maximize resources.”
During Tuesday’s public hearing, Lynne Koski, vice president of administrative services, reviewed the general operating budget.
“Factors affecting the general operating budget for the coming year include the allocation and distribution of state aid,” she said. “For 2017-18, state aid to the Nebraska’s community college system is down $504,000, which translates to Northeast’s share reduced by $49,000. Other factors are a less than one-percent increase in property valuations across Northeast’s 20-county service area and flat credit hour projections.”
Koski said the building improvement budget totals $13,957,480.
She said, “With many of the College’s building and infrastructure approaching 50 years of age, thirty-percent of Northeast’s capital improvements are committed to repair and for maintenance of aging facilities. And the remaining funds are used for new projects, which are primarily geared to support workforce and economic development needs. These funds are often used in conjunction with local businesses, industries and communities.”
The third tax supporting budget is the Accessibility Barrier Elimination/Hazardous Materials budget, which totals $890,294. This is used for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and abatement projects.
The Board of Governors also approved a budget lid override as set forth by state statute. Koski said the override allows the college to accept additional state aid or property tax dollars if they would become available.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president, said community colleges are called upon for their expertise in a number of areas.
“Nebraska’s community college boards carefully exercise the levy to keep up with the ever increasing demand for their institution’s services. Even though the Northeast Community College board has the legislated authority to be at 11.25 cents, they have not exercised it. While being sensitive to taxes, the Board has also kept student tuition low to keep Northeast accessible and affordable.”
Chipps said the board continually works to meet the needs of the 20-county region.
“Providing technical education has additional costs associated with it, different from other forms of instructional expenses. Technical education is a major investment at Northeast, but it provides the best opportunities for business, industries and communities to have at their disposal a skilled workforce, which continues to be a major issue for the nation, especially in rural America. The Northeast Board of Governors, who also live and work across our 20 county service area, look for balance when it comes to the College serving the needs of business, industry and our communities while keeping the taxes in perspective as they are taxpayers themselves.”
Steve Anderson, Concord, chair of the board’s finance committee, said considering and approving the College budget is one of the most important duties of the board.
“Northeast Community College serves the region by providing students with the skills and resources that are necessary to enter the job market and become productive members of our communities,” he said. “As a board, our primary consideration is providing the proper funding for programs that allow our students to be trained on modern equipment so they can be well prepared to complete their educational goals. The budget approved by the board today allows Northeast to continue to fulfill its mission dedicating itself to the success of students and the region it serves.”