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Levy Passes, Leaving Lasting Impact

Craig Sullivan, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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At a “Say Yes To MPS” rally Millard superintendent James Sutfin talks about the importance of Millard schools. “Millard will continue to be good stewards of the your tax dollars,” Sutfin said. “We will control our spending, evaluate our programs and use this money to help our students.” Photo By: Craig Sullivan

30,184.

That was the number of ballots cast in Millard’s levy override election according to an unofficial count. An overwhelming 63 percent voted in favor and supported the levy, while 37 percent were against the levy.

With the new levy in place Millard can now tax an additional 9 cents per $100 of a resident’s property evaluation for the next five years. The limit before the override was $1.05 per $100 of the evaluation.

The levy passing is a real sense of relief for Superintendent James Sutfin. Demonstrating his commitment to passing the levy override, he only had dinner at home once during a five week period because he was constantly out trying to sway voters.

The levy will help Millard meet some of its financial needs. While Sutfin feels an overwhelming sense of pride in this community, he realizes the trust the community is putting in the district.

“Millard will continue to be good stewards of the your tax dollars,” Sutfin said. “We will control our spending, evaluate our programs and use this money to help our students.”

The additional money is earmarked for supported educational programs. The money will be used on an “as needed basis” to round out what the district anticipates as a three percent increase in expenses.

Not everyone was supportive of the levy’s passage. Millard North alumni Noah Darling believes current taxes are already a burden and forcing someone to give up more money just because they live in the district is unnecessary and excessive.

“It is unfair to make an average hard working adult who doesn’t have kids that attend a Millard school pay a tax for something that doesn’t affect them,” Darling said.

While Darling was unhappy, current senior Emily Bart was glad the levy passed and supported it so future students will continue to get the same quality education as she did.

“What makes our district great is our teachers and the amount and variety of classes that are offered,” Bart said. “It would’ve been a great disservice to the younger generation in MPS if the quality of their education was affected by budget cuts.”

While the end result is supportive of Millard, it does not mean there was not some controversy.

The parent group that ran the campaign, Millard Citizens for Continued Excellence, used third party ballot collection which, under the current law, is legal in Nebraska.

Fourteen states have laws on the books, restricting non-voters to turn in ballots according to a 2016 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some like State Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who represents part of the Millard district, are concerned how special elections are being conducted and why there has been “an explosion” of special elections the last 10 years.

Linehan also wants tightened rules on how people are informed on things like levy overrides and bond issues.

“I think anytime you have an election and there is not a real true effort to have two sides represented at meetings to inform the public is problematic,” Linehan said.

While Linehan understands Millard played by the rules they were given, she believes there are not strict enough rules around collecting ballots.

She points out the mail in ballots very title is ‘mail in’ which would lead her to believe the voter is supposed to mail the ballot or drop it at one of the designated drop areas because those were the directions.

“Just because something is not illegal does not mean its okay,” Linehan added.

Sutfin, on the other hand, thinks some people would have trouble voting lacking outside help. Voters may not have the money to buy postage or transportation to get to a polling place. He believes the parent group did nothing to hinder anyone, just assist them.

“They collected every ballot that was turned in and there is no doubt they were collecting both sides,” Sutfin added.

Millard is currently working on meetings with state senators. They are looking for some bills to address the lacking state aid.

Sutfin is still worried that state revenue finances will come in low, so reductions may occur, but it will not be at the volume of what has been occuring thanks to the levy.

“It is difficult and we do not celebrate raising taxes, what we celebrate is the fact that our community believes in a strong public school and we want to keep it that way,” Sutfin said. “Education is an investment and there is a big return.”

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Levy Passes, Leaving Lasting Impact