Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Everywhere you look, school boards are passing interlocal agreements for big, big bucks. It sounds to the uninitiated taxpayer as if schools are throwing aside turf battles in the name of financial unity and togetherness, joining hands and singing Kum-Ba-Yah.

Wrong-o. The only reason so many more interlocal agreements are passing is that interlocal agreements can get around the school spending lid set by the Nebraska Legislature. It was supposed to restrain school districts from overspending,

And so we have the specter of interlocal agreements through Educational Service Units paying for substitute teachers, administrators, staff developers and who knows what all else. Meanwhile, few people realize that spending is going over the agreed-upon cap because the revenue sources are off-budget.

For example, Waterloo and Valley just agreed on two new interlocals to share an administrator with a $74,500 salary, and to pay for a special education teacher to the tune of $50,347, according to Tuesday’s Douglas County Post-Gazette. Both school boards also are in an interlocal agreement for nursing services through the Visiting Nurses Association for up to $14,000.

But those are small potatoes, dollar-wise, compared to what’s going on across the rest of the state. Sources say that while interlocals are becoming rampant across the state and basically under the radar as far as taxpayers go, the most noticeable one involves the Nebraska Association of School Boards insurance pool. Reportedly, schools are taking higher bids from this pool than they could pay otherwise, just so that they can budget for their insurance costs above and beyond the supposed spending lid.

Other spending categories that allow schools to sidestep the spending lid include special education, grants, lease-purchase agreements, costs of repairing natural disasters, building operations and maintenance, and retirement incentives.

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