Nebraska's homeowners, its businessmen, and its farmers and ranchers all complain about their enormous property tax bills. In fact Nebraska ranks near the top nationally in the percentage of total tax revenue generated by the property tax. The tax is particularly devastating to Nebraska's farmers and ranchers where the percentage of gross income consumed by property tax falls between 10% and 20%, but it also creates a major hardship on senior citizens and the poor. High property taxes also exacerbate the loss of population as farmers and ranchers are unable to bring family members back into the business when profits are thin. Many of our senior citizens sell their homes and move to other states with more friendly tax environments.
School aid formula must be reevaluated:
The local schools are the primary entities driving up property taxes. The state of Nebraska has been negligent in funding ALL of Nebraska's schools and it is essential that the formula be reexamined and additional funds found at the state level to help shoulder the load which is burdening property taxpayers across the district. The state aid formula needs to be significantly reconfigured to reflect the very significant costs which education imposes on rural districts. It's not just that we have high transportation costs; our sparse school districts still must meet the minimum standards set by the state to remain accredited, and those standards cost a great deal of money when spread over very few students. (See KidsCount.org for Nebraska countywide costs per student). While some consolidation will likely take place within the district as student numbers continue to decline, most of the attainable savings have already been achieved.
A significant share of the revenue paid in by Nebraska's residents goes to support state aid to education, yet many districts receive little or no state aid, despite the fact that Nebraska is collecting sales and income taxes from all Nebraska residents. Each school district should get some funding for each and every student enrolled there. It is inequitable that the sales and income taxes paid by so many in western Nebraska never return to their home District.
Community College funding must move away from property tax:
The 43rd district supports three community colleges. In my mind, a community college implies that you can attend college while living at home. Clearly, the community colleges which serve the 43rd district do not meet that criterion because it isn't possible for most students to drive back and forth to Scottsbluff, Norfolk, or North Platte every day. Therefore, it is wrong for community colleges to tax residents in outlying areas for services which they do not provide. Revision of the community college funding system must be considered. If Scottsbluff, North Platte, and Norfolk wish to retain their schools then they should be the ones paying for them, and not people living 100 miles away. This tax inequity must be addressed.
Educational Service Units funding:
Nebraska's ESU's serve a valuable purpose providing special services to all Nebraska schools. ESU's are funded through state and federal aid, through property taxes, and through fees for service. At one time the state reimbursed a district for 80 to 90% of the costs of the services they provided. As time has gone by this percentage has been reduced which forces more and more of the cost of providing services onto the local school district. Nebraska needs to step up and restore funding to the service units to higher levels.