NORFOLK, Neb. – The Northeast Community College Board of Governors has given unanimous approval to the institution’s 2020-21 budgets, which include no change in the property tax levy. The action took place Thursday following public hearings during the board’s monthly meeting in Norfolk.
The board approved a general operating budget of $49,731,153, a building improvement budget of $17,839,751, and an ADA/Hazardous Material budget of $74,492 with the three tax supported budgets totaling $67,645,396. The general operating budget is funded from property taxes, state aid, and student tuition and fees; building improvement is supported through property taxes and student fees, and the ADA/Hazmat budget is financed by property taxes being remitted from prior years. A portion of Northeast’s state aid is to be distributed to Nebraska’s tribal colleges.
Scott Gray, vice president of administrative services, said operational expenses at Northeast have been adjusted based on several factors.
"President (Leah) Barrett and the administrative services staff have worked hard over the past several months to put together a budget which has required operating expenditure cuts to be made in capital outlay and travel in order to provide funds for negotiated total compensation agreement increases, a compensation increase for staff at the lowest end of the compensation grade structure, COVID-19 safety measures, as well as increases in utilities, insurance, software licenses and maintenance agreements.”
Gray said the building improvement budget increased from the previous year. The document features two significant projects currently underway on the Norfolk campus.
“The building improvement budget comprises of funding for continuing projects, including the College’s commitment to new agriculture facilities, which is primarily being financed through a combination of college dollars and funds raised through a capital campaign, as well as new projects in the next fiscal year that take in to account additional facility upgrades and repairs, the Union 73 student center construction and renovation project and debt payments on existing facilities,” he said.
The property tax requirement of $31,416,636 to fund the College’s budget is down $75,000 dollars from the previous year. As in its previously approved budgets, the projected tax levy will remain below the authorized limit as set by the state.
Nebraska state statute establishes a general fund property tax levy rate limit not to exceed the difference between 11.25 cents and the rate levied for the building improvement fund per $100 of taxable property valuation. The total property tax levy for all funds of 9.5 cents, which includes the two-cent building improvement levy, remains the same for the third consecutive year. The owner of a home in Northeast’s 20 county service area with a taxable value of $200,000 would pay $190.00, the same as the previous year.
Additionally, the College’s non-tax self-supporting funds budget for 2020-21 totals $37,321,545. These funds include sales and fee revenue, federal financial aid, state and federal grants, including CARES Act dollars, and capital campaigns. Overall, the total of all budgets (general operating, building improvement, ADA/hazardous material budget, and non-tax self-supporting funds) combined is down 1.62% from the previous year.
The Board of Governors also approved a budget lid override as set forth by state statute. The lid override allows Northeast to accept additional state aid or property tax dollars if they would become available.
Barrett said COVID-19 has caused some revenue shortfalls in terms of a reduction in credit hour production and in residential life, with fewer students enrolled in classes and living on the Norfolk campus.
“Over the summer, we had discussions with the Board of Governors on how we are planning in the short term and prepare for the long term,” Barrett said. “With the onset of the pandemic, Northeast has taken a hard look at its expenses and remains vigilant in balancing its expenditures as the uncertainty over COVID-19 remains.”
Barrett also cited additional cost savings through cuts in athletics, not refilling several vacant positions, and a print management program that not only reduces spending, but improves the quality and security of printing across the College.
Gray said Northeast will continue to make informed decisions when it comes to budget development.
“As we move into the next fiscal year, our staff is committed to finding ways to streamline processes and maximize current resources, so our students continue to receive the same quality education and experience regardless of the uncertainty surrounding today's environment."
Steve Anderson, Concord, chairperson of the Board of Governors, said it is essential for the board to maintain a balance when it comes to the budget.
“My fellow board members and I are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of public funds. This year, we are able to again maintain the tax levy while continuing our commitment of providing a quality education to our students during a pandemic. I commend the administration in its efforts in finding a way to move us forward through thoughtful planning and financing of the college,” he said.
“The Board of Governors has reviewed the budget and determined that it reflects good stewardship in all accounts,” said Gene Willers, of Pilger, chairperson of the board’s finance committee. “Education is paramount for everyone – from our children and grandchildren to non-traditional students - in the formation of essential job skills for the marketplace. As we consider our constituents’ desires and concerns, the board feels this budget reflects its goals through Northeast’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, which has a determined focus on student success and student access."