Pushing For Tax Restructuring, More State Aid to Education

BEATRICE – A coalition of farm and education groups says this coming year represents the best chance in several years, to achieve property tax relief through tax restructuring.  But they say it will take a community-based effort…and will require new sources of revenue, not just continued spending cuts.

:37                  “one more time”

President of the Nebraska Farmers Union, John Hansen says the state cannot continue giving away its tax base each year, without adverse impact.

In recent years, agriculture land values skyrocketed and over 70-percent of Nebraska school districts no longer receive any equalization aid, forcing them to rely more on property taxes to fund operations.  Coalition members maintain that the state needs to provide more aid for education.  The group is proposing a system that calls for removing various sales tax exemptions, raising the state sales tax by a half-percent and making other adjustments.

York School Superintendent Dr. Mike Lucas leads the organization, Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children’s Education.  He said schools don’t really know if the state’s school funding formula works, because it’s never been fully funded.  On the spending side, he says York Public Schools has increased spending only 15-percent over a ten-year period.

:45                  “tightening our belt”

The panel representing Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education met with about 55 people, mostly farmers, at Valentino’s in Beatrice Wednesday night.  Two newly elected State Senators, Myron Dorn of Adams and Tom Brandt, of Plymouth, were in attendance.

Hansen said there were 27 votes to support a tax restructuring plan by Senator Tom Briese, of Albion in last year’s legislative session…. short of the 33 needed to pass a plan or override a veto.

Jack Moles, the Executive Director of the Nebraska Rural Community Schools’  Association, cited several area school districts that no longer receive any state equalization aid, because the education funding formula deems them able to raise support for their operations through their property tax base.

:11                  “property tax savings”

Hansen says it’s important that more rural citizens get directly involved in the push for a plan to reduce reliance on property taxes.

:42                  “in this thing”

Former State Senator Al Davis, of Hyannis says when it comes to education, spending by local school districts is not the problem.  It’s a lack of revenue.  The member of the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska says the state’s farmers are also at a competitive disadvantage with farmers in other states, where property taxes are lower.

The panel session was organized by Wymore area farmer, Don Schuller.

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