Board Report: Special Budget Meeting


On Sept. 28, the Conestoga board of education (BOE) held a budget hearing followed by a special board of education meeting. Members Allison Welch, David Duzik, Tracy Priefert, Jason Nolting, Candace Kelly, and Jeremy Stone were in attendance. During the special budget hearing, members of the community were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and engage in discussion with the BOE and Superintendent Mike Apple over the 2022-2023 school year budget.

Two community members came to voice concerns. The first to speak, a resident of Nehawka, stated that he was dumbfounded by the sharp increase in budget for the upcoming school year compared to what the district has been spending the past two years. He referred back to the bond, which has continuously failed for the past several years, stating that the voters have made their opinions clear. He said that that vote should be respected instead of this budget increase which he referred to as a workaround. The second person to speak voiced similar concerns and also mentioned the meeting time. Meetings, previously held at 7 p.m., are now held at 5 p.m., and the special budget hearing was slotted for 4:45. He stated that most people are still at work at 4:45 and referenced the section of the Declaration of Independence referring to legislative bodies meeting in unusual places in an attempt to prevent people from attending.

The Conestoga board of education hears from community members voicing concerns about the budget. (John)

Superintendent of Conestoga Public Schools Mike Apple then responded and engaged with the community members with members of the board commenting occasionally. He stated that the increase of funds to cover the budget results from a Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Fund (QCPUF) bond not a sizable tax increase. These funds will be used to pay for immediately pressing renovations to the buildings including replacing air conditioners that are beyond repair at the elementary school, replacing fire alarms at the high school and installing a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system at the high school to replace the current one which he said is original. Board member Tracy Priefert also stated that when tornadoes hit the area over Christmas break, school would have had to have been canceled if it wasn’t already out on break due to problems with essential systems.

Regarding the time change, members of the board stated that the reason for the change was to give them and members of the community the opportunity to attend activities and sporting events without interference from board meetings.

Apple offered that people with concerns were welcome to call him to discuss their objections. The hearing then adjourned and they entered into the special board meeting. There were three action items. The first was to approve the 2022-2023 school year budget which passed unanimously. The second was to approve the resolution setting the property tax request, which also passed unanimously. The third action item was to remove Dean Nickels, who stepped down from the board in February, and Jason Nolting, who has chosen not to run for reelection, from all Cornerstone and First State Bank Nebraska bank accounts. Jason Nolting abstained and all others voted in favor.