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Westside schools sue Douglas County Treasurer, wants money from missed payments

Posted at 3:12 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 16:26:39-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Westside Community Schools District is taking the Douglas County Treasurer to court to get back money it's owed.

The lawsuit stems from a series of errors the treasurer’s office made while divvying out money that was in lieu of tax payments from Omaha Public Power District.

The Nebraska auditor indicated earlier this year that the treasurer underpaid Westside schools $3.7 million for 2021. Both Elkhorn and Ralston Public Schools were underpaid by over $4 million.

This error also led to some overpayments with Omaha Public Schools receiving an overpayment of $5.6 million, the City of Omaha receiving $4.37 million more than they should have, and Douglas County getting $2.7 million in extra funds.

Treasurer John Ewing said in a May press conference that it was an error in interpreting state statute and at the time, he didn’t expect to get sued.

The treasurer’s office was supposed to calculate the formula using tax levies of all school districts in the City of Omaha.

Instead, the treasurer’s office used OPS’s tax levy and then divided out the funds based on student enrollment.

Ewing said in May that his office consulted with the state on making sure they were using the formula correctly, but never implemented any changes.

The complaint from Westside states that the error also occurred in 2019 and 2020, and the school district is looking to recoup that money as well.

OPPD pays 5% of all revenue in a lump sum to the country treasurer in lieu of taxes. In 2021, that sum was over $26 million.

A similar error also occurred in Sarpy County several years ago. The board removed treasurer Brian Zugar and was sued by Millard Public Schools and OPS, with those cases still pending.

Ewing has said he’s working with individual school districts to get the problem corrected.

Westside’s attorney Mike Coyle was out of town Thursday, and unavailable for immediate comment.

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