Property tax reform in Nebraska is ‘a good conversation to have’December 29, 2021
A legislative proposal expected to be introduced in the Nebraska Legislature next year could save property owners $715 million in local property taxes by shifting more education spending to the state government, the Lincoln Journal Star recently reported.
The shift would increase the state’s education aid to $1.762 billion from $1.047 billion based on the amount the state currently spends, according to the report. Schools currently account for 60% of local property taxes.
Money saved through lower property taxes could go back into communities, state Sen. Lynne Walz, D-Fremont, told the Journal Star. Walz, who chairs the Legislature’s Education Committee, plans to introduce the proposal during the next legislative session, according to the Journal Star.
“We recognize that education is the cornerstone to economic development and a strong workforce,” Walz told the Journal Star. “Education is a priority for every Nebraskan. We need to be responsive and assure that the funding and resources are available not only today but well into the future.”
Property tax reform in Nebraska is “a good conversation to have,” Sarah Curry, policy director of the non-profit think tank Platte Institute, told the Center Square.
“Typically we see states reform their school finance formulas after about 30 years,” she said. “We are at that mark because Nebraska created its funding formula in 1990.”
It’s important for any reform to have a broad impact among counties and not only a few with high property taxes, Curry said.
“I think you have to lower the local levy enough so that a majority of the districts see a significant reduction,” she said. “But at the same time, we have to make sure that we are generating the revenue at the state level to backfill. How is the state going to come up with that $715 million?”
Expansion of the state sales tax base is a possible way to get the extra revenue, she said.
“I think we need a change in our tax code,” Curry said. “We can’t do this in our current tax code.”
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