TO: Revenue Committee, Senator Linehan, Chairperson
RE: LB 891
Chairwoman Linehan and members of the Revenue Committee,
My Name is Kyle Fairbairn, and I represent the Greater Nebraska Schools Association (GNSA) which is an organization that represents 25 of the largest school districts in the state of Nebraska. These 25 districts represent about 75% of all the children in the state attending public schools.
I come to you today in support of LB 891. I want to take a moment to thank Senator Lindstrom and his staff on the introduction of this bill. Over the past 3 months I have watched the work put forward to bring this bill forward. Senator Lindstrom working with Senator Walz have worked tirelessly trying to put a package of bills together to shape the change in school finance in the state. They have presented to public schools across the state, had meetings with outside organizations, one on one meetings with numerous Senators, and taken ideas from all these meetings to make a strong package in LB 890 and LB 891. Bills take a tremendous amount of time to put together and go through the process and GNSA appreciates all the work that Senators do to move the state forward.
It has been said many times over the last few years in this Legislature that the large schools that I represent in GNSA would never compromise on property tax issues and sending state money to rural schools. LB 891 along with its sister bill (LB 890) does both of those things. GNSA is putting its trust in the Legislature to fund this proposal in order make sure that the children attending GNSA schools do not suffer from losses in state aid. Trust has been a very tough issue over the years as whenever the state needs to cut funding it has looked at the school funding formula for reductions. Senator Lindstrom’s bill if followed would build a trust to secure funding to make sure that cuts stay far away from the schools that must depend on state aid to function. This trust would work very similar to the highway trust fund currently in place and the environmental trust. GNSA would like another layer of protection in this bill, but no bill is perfect. Funding for education would be more stable if this bill were to go into law.
Nebraska has also struggled with how to control local property taxes. This bill would greatly reduce the property tax asking of all schools across the state. Property owners would see double digit percentage reductions in local property taxes collected. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website latest information again shows that Nebraska is 49 in state support for schools only behind New Hampshire by ½%. This bill would move the state up into the top 25.
It is very difficult for schools that I serve who are dependent on TEEOSA funding to educate all the children they serve to talk about changing the current funding formula. Senators Lindstrom and Walz have put together bills most in GNSA support. GNSA hopes that Senators will not try to change these bills to eliminate the strong support from most public schools across the state.