LEXINGTON — Good news for the taxpayer, Lexington Public School’s tax levy will stay at the same rate it was last year. The LPS school board approved the levy and 2019-2020 budget at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 16.

Highlights of the budget come from Superintendent John Hakonson.

• The general fund tax levy will remain unchanged at $1.05 per $100. There are no proposed additional taxes to be levied in other funds.

• Cash reserve was use to shore up a general fund budget shortfall during the 2018-2019 school year due to decreases in both state aid and property tax collections.

• The general fund is expected to operate, "in the black," this year due to an increase in receipts.

• Valuations increased by 3.7 percent, bringing the total tax request to $11.7 million.

• State aid increased by 13 percent to $19.9 million.

• The general fund budget expenditures will increase around four percent due to salary and benefit increases for employees. A transfer to the depreciation fund is intended to be made at the end of the fiscal year to support major expenditures in technology, transportation, maintenance and curriculum.

Hakonson noted LPS’s tax levy is on the lower end for most Class B schools. The board approved the 2019-2020 budget and the property tax request.

In other news, the purchase of an HVAC unit for the roof of Lexington High School was considered after a troublesome unit kept breaking down.

Director of Buildings, Grounds and Transportation Bo Berry said this unit has been repaired several times and recently the compressor died. One bid to replace it came from Trane for the amount of $21,457.00.

Trane builds the same model as the old one and the replacement will be done in-house by LPS employees, Berry said. This unit covers the southwest side of the high school. The purchase was approved.

Construction work at Sandoz is ongoing and will be completed by early summer in 2020. Principal Barry McFarland noted later in the meeting the concrete flooring was going to be poured all in one go this week.

Overnight travel requests were approved for the JEA, journalism, and FFA national conventions. Hakonson said both of these groups are included in board police on national competitions. FFA students need to qualify at the state competition to attend the national convention.

Journalism students need to earn a Cornhusker award the previous year to be able to qualify for the JEA national convention. The yearbook students earned this award last school year.

Revisions to the Nebraska Department of Education’s Rule 91 have required changes to two LPS board policies, Hakonson said.

Updates to rule 4039 requires school disticts to obtain a criminal history record from the Nebraska State Patrol for all individuals who are employed as transportation vehicle drivers. The policy was amended to reflect the requirement, said Hakonson.

Board member Garth Mins had questions regarding the district’s policy before this update. Berry said criminal background checks were already done on potential drivers and it was updated every five years, certain conditions would disallow a driver from driving any school related vehicle.

Berry also responded to another question by Mins about vehicle control and discipline. Berry said control of the bus ultimately falls on the driver, but sponsors and teachers can help to keep students safe during transportation. Yet responsibility ultimately falls on the driver and they can take whatever actions are needed to maintain the safety of the vehicle, said Berry.

An update to rule 5044 also concerned transportation. Hakonson said the policy was revised to reflect floods or standing water, unattended items on or near transportation vehicles, confirming a driver’s functional capacity and ability to conduct their duties, satisfactory driving criteria and emergency evacuation drills for small vehicles.

A bus fire in Iowa which killed the driver and student was the main driver behind many of these policy changes, Hakonson said, responses to tragedies like the one in Iowa eventually find their way to other school districts.

Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Director Julie Myers said a professional development day was held at the schools. There was a general session in the morning followed by two breakout sessions, in which staff could choose the sessions they wanted to attend, a recent addition to development days.

Myers aid the staff was "very gracious and appreciated it," and they know of ways they can make improvements for the next professional development day.

Hakonson reminded the board members the Nebraska Associate of School Boards convention is in November in Lincoln.

Board member Carlos Saiz and board president Travis Maloley expressed their gratitude for the staff and organizers of the professional development day.

Vice-president Roger Reutlinger congratulated the LPS food staff for serving 800 students at lunch and 500 for breakfast routinely, Hakonson noted one day there were 700 students who were served for breakfast.

The next school board meeting will take place Monday, Oct. 14.

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