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State Senator Roy Baker
Beatrice State Developmental Center Legislative Resolution 32 was passed in the 2015 session to provide for the continuation of the Developmental Disabilities Special Investigative Committee. The Committee has been providing ongoing oversight of the placement and care of the developmentally disabled in Nebraska since 2008. The BSCD had been decertified, resulting in a loss of $25 million per year of Federal funding. That funding has been restored, and the Department of Justice has closed the case.
I serve on the committee, and was tasked to focus on BSDC. My staff arranged a tour of the BSDC for the Senators on the committee, and the staff hosted us on October 21. We had the opportunity to see the facilities, visit with staff at all levels, and with parents and guardians.
We learned that the population being served in the 1970’s was over 2,000 with approximately 3,000 staff. Clearly the Center was a major employer in the Beatrice Community. Today, the number of developmentally disabled is down to 116, with around 550 employees. There have been no admissions since 2012 and only four since 2010. There has been a clear trend across the country to look to community based programs instead of institutions, with the focus on better integration into mainstream society.
The parents and guardians all told us that they don’t see the BSCD as an institution, but as a home for their loved ones. When residents were moved out of the BSCD into community settings during the crisis, the displaced residents were unhappy and did not fare well, particularly the behaviorally challenged.
With a dwindling number of people being served, many of the facilities on the campus are not being utilized. The costs of providing services exceeds $400,000 per person served per year, with about 60% Federal funding. The State’s share of BSDC budget is over $22 million per year. The Investigative Committee is committed to providing the same high level of care in the future to the current residents, while realizing we have to have a plan in place to take into account the new realities.
Tax Relief and School Funding The Revenue and Education Committees have met jointly for a series of sessions to discuss how to provide property tax relief via increased funding of K-12 schools, who would in turn be required to lower the amount of local property tax requests. In effect, nothing would change for school districts – they would be neither better off nor worse off. It is likely that the additional funding would be a stream separate from existing State Aid (TEEOSA). The additional funding might come via foundation aid per pupil, increased reimbursement for special education expenditures, and/or increasing allocated income taxes up to the 20% level. Any changes in the existing State Aid formula would be separate from this discussion, and most likely initiated in the Education Committee. Changes in the State Aid formula that might be considered include: elimination of the minimum levy; reduce ag land valuation from 75% to 65% just for purposes of calculating equalization aid; and eliminating the averaging adjustment, which would bring more school districts back into receiving equalization aid.
The next step is to hold public hearings on the concepts. Testimony on LR332 from the Revenue Committee and LR344 from the Education Committee will be heard at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 12.
Feel free to contact me on these matters, or any other subject related to the Legislature. My Capitol office telephone number is 402-471-2620; the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org