NORFOLK, Neb. -- A school district’s board of education will have to head back to the drawing board for their tax request.

Norfolk Public School’s Board of Education met Monday night to discuss their budget and tax levy for the fiscal year.

NPS proposed a tax request of $36,227,266 for the 2023-24 fiscal year with a $1.0733 property tax levy. While the levy was decreased from last year by .0473300 cents, the board specified their ask was higher than last year for taxpayers by 9.1%.

Factoring into the higher ask was a five-cent levy in the special building fund for a proposed expansion of the Middle School. Staff at the building said there are security concerns, and there is no room in the building.

“In a typical school year, we have approximately 660 students walk through our doors every single day,” Chuck Hughes the NPS middle school principal said. “Currently we have zero open areas to add classrooms or workspaces for any additions that may need to come our way in an ever-changing world. Most importantly to me, the addition would provide a safe and secure entrance into the middle school.”

This five-cent levy would help provide funding for the project after it is bid on. While staff members at the school voiced their support, some taxpayers voiced their opposition. Rod Wilke claimed people who live on a fixed income like himself couldn’t afford the increase. He also said a new building wasn’t important, so long as kids received a proper education.

“I was educated in a one-room school with an outhouse,” Rod Wilke said recalling his time as a student. “I didn’t need all of the best; I was educated and for some reason, this school administration thinks they need more money from taxpayers. We can’t afford it.”

The board of education itself was split on the matter. Board members in favor argued it was responsible to implement the five-cent levy now to prevent a higher cost later down the road.

The opposition, however, argued the request was too high an ask for taxpayers.

When put to a vote the measure failed in a tie 3-3 with board members Brenda Carhart, Beth Shashikant, and Sandy Wolfe voting in favor, and members Teri Bauer, Cindy Booth, and Lindsay Dixon voting in opposition.

Moving forward, superintendent Dr. Jami Jo Thompson said a new proposal will be drafted without the five-cent levy.

“After much consideration, the board decided they did not want to approve that extra five cents, so we will go back to the drawing board and put a new budget together," Thompson said. "And we will look for ways to fund at least part of the middle school project if possible."

Moving forward Thompson said a new budget will be created "hopefully" by the end of the week, which would then be reviewed by a special finance and facilities meeting.

From there NPS would attend the joint public hearing on Sept. 21, at the Lifelong Learning Center at Northeast Community College at 6 p.m. After this meeting, the budget and tax levy would be voted for approval on Sept. 28.