Local political subdivisions are starting to evaluate their budgets to make proposals and changes. This means they will be setting their levy rates for their property tax asking. If you have been watching, listening to or reading the news lately, the headlines talk about the lowering of levies, record levy decreases and the like.
Several groups have been leading their budget stories with the amount of levy decrease they are planning on this year. Several of these subdivisions are hiding behind a levy decrease, and you will be paying more in taxes because of the assessed values of your homes and commercial properties. The job of the county assessor is to determine, based on similar sales, the value of your property. There is a process by which property owners can protest their valuations, which is what the political subdivisions base their property tax asking on to meet their budget. This year, roughly 5,000 property owners in Lancaster County filed a protest of their property valuation. Pending the outcome of these protests, the average property in Lancaster County is going to increase by about 22%.
Once the budget is set for the political subdivision, they must determine the property tax asking amount, which determines the levy. Because of the large increases in valuations in the coming year, several political subdivisions are lowering their property tax levy, some are maintaining the current levy and one is increasing the levy rate.
Recently at a LIBA Luncheon, LPS was presenting on their budget and touting the decreased levy, a record decrease in the levy, while on the other hand pointing out if you own a home valued at $200,000 you will “only” be paying $300 more in property taxes. The City of Lincoln released their budget touting dropping the levy rate, and at the same time has been taking credit, that they are “only” taking $8 million of the $14 million they could be taking based on their current levy. This increase is on top of the already agreed upon plan to raise the budget for the City of Lincoln five percent over the previous year, and the previous year was a seven-plus percent increase over the year before!
The Southeast Community College Board of Governors made headlines this summer when they announced in their preliminary budget they would be increasing their levy to the maximum level because of the new funding model passed by the Legislature. The increase in the proposed budget meant a hefty 40% property tax increase for the taxpayers in the 15 counties served by SCC.
During a time when Lincoln families continue to make ends meet, our political subdivisions seem to be taking what they can. Because of a bill passed in the Nebraska Legislature in 2022, referred to as the “truth in taxation” bill, a political subdivision is required to hold a joint public hearing with all other political subdivisions when the political subdivisions seek to increase its property tax request by more than the allowable growth percentage. This public hearing requires the political subdivision to send a representative to give a brief explanation on the intent of the increase. Members of the public shall be allowed to speak at the joint public hearing and given a reasonable amount of time to speak. The announcement of these hearings will be sent to all affected property taxpayers. Watch your mail for a ‘pink card’ announcing the public hearings and plan to attend to offer public comment. It is our duty to show up for these public hearings and inform our elected officials of the financial impact these budgets have on our employees and families.
LIBA studies and promotes these types of issues that are important to businesses and our community. If you have an interest in joining, please call LIBA at (402) 466-3419. LIBA membership is not restricted to just businesses. We also have “individual” memberships for those who want to help influence our local government decisions.