There are currently three bills before the Nebraska Legislature which aim to adjust the common levy of the Learning Community. The intent is to increase equity among school districts of varying income levels with a levy that provides shared services.
Sarpy County communities are very supportive of the overall intent of the Learning Community as an effort to enhance education for students in our area. However, the current parameters of the Learning Community have created an unforeseen negative impact on economic and real estate development in the area.
Current proposed bills, with the exception of Senator Crawford’s Bill L.B. 392, would have a continued negative impact, not only on education in Sarpy County, but on real estate development and commerce here and statewide. Legislation addresses the common levy, but does not tackle school district boundaries currently frozen by the Learning Community. These barriers which were originally mandated due to issues in Douglas County have stymied development in Sarpy County.
Over the past 13 years, the state of Nebraska has benefited from tax revenue due to economic and real estate growth in Sarpy County. Since the Learning Community levy and boundaries were implemented three years ago, a marked decrease in development has occurred due to imposed geographic constraints.
Since implementation of the Learning Community, fewer than 100 residential lots have been approved in the entire Springfield Platteview Community Schools boundary area. During this same time, the Papillion-La Vista district boundary area has seen more than 3,000 new homes built, plus an additional 1,000 in progress, along with 2 million square feet of new commercial development. Nearly 79% of land within the Springfield Platteview boundaries sits in a natural progression to be developed, based on its proximity to current development areas within the cities of Papillion and Bellevue. However, progress is impeded by school boundary lines.
The Springfield Platteview, Papillion-La Vista and Bellevue Public School Districts’ are currently in discussions, and may be working toward a formal agreement to move district boundaries under the current law. If, however, the common levy is removed via legislation, but a formalized boundary change is not made, the impact could be even more negative.
The levy issue and the frozen boundaries are inextricably linked. If we address one without a formal resolution of the other, it will have an even more devastating impact on our local economic development efforts.
It is critical that if a bill addressing the common levy moves forward in the Nebraska legislature that the current boundaries have a mechanism to be adjusted when outward growth from Papillion or Bellevue warrants changes in school district boundaries. These changes would help assist all districts and enable Sarpy County development to thrive in all areas.