SIDNEY -- Representatives of the Sidney and Leyton school boards were present for a Joint Public Budget Request Hearing September 18.

The hearing was held at Sidney High School's auditorium in anticipation of a large crowd. Under LB644 counties, cities, school districts and community colleges must participate in a joint public hearing and pass a resolution or ordinance before increasing their property tax request by more than an allowable growth percentage, as stated in the Sept. 19, 2023 Unicameral Update.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sidney School District Board President Mike Palmer explained the procedure of the meeting: all persons in attendance were required to sign in at the entrance to the room, Cheyenne County was not present and valuations would not be discussed, speakers were expected remain civil, identify themselves at the beginning of their comments, speak directly to the panel and would have a maximum of three minutes to speak.

The hearing was not a question-answer session; no answers were offered.

Sidney Schools proposed an 8.82 percent property tax request increase, while Leyton schools an 11 percent increase.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to share our vision as the district. This was a great opportunity to explain how the educational process works at Sidney Public Schools and the financial challenges we face as a district and a community. We are always open to further discussions for solutions that will move our school and community forward," Sidney Superintendent Andrew Farber said.

Leyton Superintendent Matt McLaughlin proposed a mil levy increase from .90858 to .914775. The total dollar amount of Leyton's ask is $4,114,619.

McLaughlin said his main take-away from the meeting is giving people at the meeting an opportunity to express their concerns. 

"I thought that was a really great moment for us to reflect on the work that we're doing as schools. There was several different comments that said 'make sure you're talking about areas that you are cutting.' We all believe in having good teacher pay, and our kids going to school in a great school, and they feel save in all of those areas. But what are areas that you're looking at your budget in, and looking for cuts. That was something that really stood out to me, from the seven or eight people that talked," McLaughlin said.

The meeting lasted about an hour with comments directed to representatives of both Districts.