Nebraska Legislature weighs proposal to limit growth in schools’ property tax revenue

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A bill before the Legislature’s Revenue Committee would limit the money school districts receive from property taxes. 

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Briese, LB 589 would cap the annual increase in a district’s property tax revenue at 3%. 

“We continue to have a property tax crisis in this state, and some would suggest it’s because of our failure to properly fund schools at the state level,” Briese said. “This package really is an opportunity to do something about it.” 

Gov. Jim Pillen testified in favor of the bill. He believes it is a way to protect taxpayers and invest in education.

Bruce Reiker of the Nebraska Farm Bureau said the bill is intended to lower property taxes.

“We hope it turns around to be property tax relief, that the state steps up and spends more on education, which, it’s their responsibility,” he said. 

The bill would allow for additional spending to keep up with student population growth and increases in number of students in poverty and those learning English. 

And districts could override the cap, but they would need the approval of at least 70% of board members or 60% of voters. 

Those in opposition say a cap would limit the power of local school boards. 

“School board members are elected by the people of the community,” said Jen Dubas of the Nebraska State Education Association. “LB 589 would take local control and give it to the state.” 

Opponents also say if the bill is approved, districts would have to choose between paying staff or buying supplies for students. 

“It would also further limit our district’s ability to adjust compensation adequately, causing teachers to leave the profession for higher-paying jobs and further exacerbating the current teacher shortage,” Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan said.

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