Local political subdivisions are preparing or have already begun their budget processes. This means our focus has been watching what is happening with our taxes in Lincoln and Lancaster County. We pay several different taxes here in Lincoln – property taxes, sales taxes, wheel taxes and more. Now that these groups will be entering into budget season, we the citizens must stay informed and be in touch with our elected officials to have conversations about their budgets and taxes.

You will often hear our local political subdivisions make statements like, “we kept the property tax levy rate the same,” which is sometimes interpreted as “holding the line on property taxes.” However, the devil is in the details. With skyrocketing property valuations in Lincoln and Lancaster County, keeping the property tax levy rate the same means you are paying more in property taxes every time your valuation increases.

When preliminary valuations were sent out earlier this year, property owners received quite an eye-opening with their new valuations. LIBA members from across the county have shared their increases – 10%, 20%, 30+% or they share their values are going up on some cases over $100,000. Now, understand, if your valuation is going up at this rate and the local political subdivisions continue to keep their levy rate the same, you will be paying a larger property tax bill next year.

Recently the Lincoln City Council had a resolution before them to agree that only taking the amount of property taxes in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year was appropriate. This is a non-binding resolution which would have established the City Council’s philosophy that only taking the amount in the budget for property tax asking was appropriate. This resolution failed on a vote of 2-5. The publicly available city budget does not include a breakdown of each stream of tax revenue. However, the budget passed in 2022 projected the property tax asking to be $92,369,588.

During the process of preparing to testify in favor of this resolution, I discovered over the past three years, the City of Lincoln has collected $101,888,974 above their budgeted tax revenue. Broken down as follows:

2018-2019: $38,445,876

2019-2020: $33,066,140

2020-2021: $30,376,958

Total: $101,888,974

In LIBA’s conversation with council members, we continue to discuss the importance of government restraint in taxes when it comes to property tax asking. The citizens of Lincoln and Lancaster County have experienced great inflation in everyday items over the past few years, while wages are not increasing at the same rate as expenses that families are incurring.

There has been much media coverage on the state level on property tax relief and changing the tax codes at the state level. Meanwhile, I maintain, all politics is local. Decisions made locally have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives when it comes to the taxes we pay to support local government entities. Over the course of the summer as business owners and citizens we need to pay close attention to the budgets being considered and take time to go to a public hearing and offer our thoughts on what is happening in all these political subdivisions. You have often read my message, “decisions are made by those who show up.” Let’s show up and have the conversation about how we are being taxed in Lincoln and Lancaster County.