Residents of Douglas and Sarpy Counties would see no increase in the Learning Community portion of their property tax rate under a proposed 2013-14 budget.
The budget is up for a vote tonight by the Learning Community Council.
“This is kind of a status quo budget,” said council member Mike Pate.
But new spending on some big-ticket items is also on the agenda, including construction of a new learning center in north Omaha and extension of a contract for public relations work.
The proposed center would be the second opened by the education cooperative, which is tasked by lawmakers to improve academic achievement for disadvantaged kids. The South Omaha center is temporarily located at 5211 S. 31st St. until renovation is complete at its new location, the former Omaha Public Library branch at 23rd and M Streets.
Both serve neighborhoods in the metro Omaha area with higher concentrations of poverty.
Under the budget, the Learning Community's elementary learning center levy that pays for programs to help kids in poverty succeed in school would remain at 1 cent per $100 of property valuation, generating nearly $4.9 million.
Although lawmakers last session authorized the Learning Community Council to raise that levy by half a cent, Chief Operating Officer Ted Stilwill said the money won't be needed this year.
First, the council will have to work with superintendents in the 11 member school districts to develop an early childhood education plan requested by state lawmakers.
“When the plan is ready, we can figure out how much we'll need to levy next August,” he said.
The budget would set the common general fund levy, upon which member districts build their budgets, at 95 cents.
Two other levies, both for capital projects, would stay at zero.
Construction of a north Omaha center has been long in planning.
A lease agreement is proposed to provide for construction of the 20,000-square-foot learning center on 2.7 acres at 24th and Franklin Streets. It would serve north Omaha's low-income children, their parents and child-care providers.
The council will consider approving a 10-year lease with the landowner, the Omaha Economic Development Corporation, which would build the center and be the landlord. The maximum base rent would be $400,000 a year.
It would open in September 2014.
The council would pay RDG Planning and Design $334,000 for architectural design and oversight for the building project. Furnishing and equipping the building will cost about $300,000. The council is also being asked to authorize $200,000 in contingency costs.
Stilwill said adults who work with kids from areas of poverty — both parents and child care providers — need extra support.
The building would serve as a “staging area” for such services, he said. It would also serve as a support center for the eight new early childhood education classrooms at Kellom and Conestoga Elementary Schools in the Omaha Public Schools.
The center would have classroom space for parents themselves to improve their literacy and parenting skills, as well as for infant and toddler classrooms run by Educare. It will provide office space for community partners as well.
The council also will consider renewing a contract with Carroll Communications for up to $88,000 for public relations services.