An insult to Nebraska’s property taxpayers

Small Towns

By Johnathan Hladik, former policy director

Every property owner knows Nebraska relies too heavily on property taxes to fund our public schools.

This has been true for more than a decade and remains so today, even after legislators created rebates and refunds in recent years. Those actions made only marginal improvements that many property owners did not notice and did not benefit from. These minor actions allowed the same-old structural flaws that created this problem to persist.

In fact, Nebraska still ranks 49th in the percentage of the tab for schools that comes from state dollars. According to the Omaha World-Herald, for every dollar that supports public K-12 schools, the State of Nebraska pays 36 cents. Nationally, the average is 51 cents.

That is why Nebraska’s property taxpayers reacted with surprise and disappointment as lawmakers voted to advance legislation that would hand at least $25 million of your tax dollars to private school donors every year.

Property taxpayers are right to be angry about Legislative Bill (LB) 753. The easiest way to reduce property taxes in Nebraska is to control spending and increase state support for public schools. After more than a decade of hearing this is not possible, taxpayers are insulted to see lawmakers suddenly find the money for schools, but only if they are private.

For rural property owners, this is a slap in the face. According to former state Sen. Curt Friesen, only about 10% of all Nebraska students attending private schools live in rural areas. That is just about 3% of all rural students statewide.

Proponents will point out that LB 753 is part of a larger package, and if it does not advance, those other bills will not have a chance. This is nonsense. Nebraskans elect lawmakers to lead with good ideas, not follow to support the bad ones.