2022 – LB 986 Testimony

COMMENTS TO THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE

LB 986 (Briese) Adopt the School District Property Tax Limitation Act

Jason Buckingham, Asst. Superintendent Ralston Public Schools

Representing GNSA

January 20, 2022

Good afternoon, Chairperson Linehan and Members of the Revenue Committee.  My name is Jason Buckingham (J-a-s-o-n B-u-c-k-i-n-g-h-a-m) and I am an Assistant Superintendent for the  Ralston Public Schools. I speak today on behalf of the Greater Nebraska Schools Association, and I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to speak.  I appear before you today in opposition of LB 986.

GNSA as an entity represents the largest, and in some instances the fastest growing school districts within the State of Nebraska, and as such we have some concerns regarding the language proposed in LB 986.  As many of you are aware from your work on either the Revenue or Education Committee, the imbalance of revenues from federal, state and local sources has long been an issue of contention.  Simply creating arbitrary caps on property tax increases ignores the greater issue of the need for our state to develop additional sources of revenue to fund public education.  These additional sources of revenue will provide our government with the funds necessary to allow the state to take on more of their share in funding public education in Nebraska and provide property tax relief to our citizens. 

This bill as written only creates more taxing caps that are quite honestly unnecessary.  Public school districts in our state are already limited by our basic allowable growth rate, allowable reserve percentages and the general fund levy cap of $1.05.   Addressing how the state will collect more revenue is a critical component in allowing a shift towards lower property taxes.  Senator Briese has introduced many bills in the past that have allowed the state to increase revenues and therefore increase the financial commitment to public education.  In our opinion the concept of limiting property tax collection and increasing revenue streams for the state are intertwined.  Simply adding more restrictions to the ability of political subdivisions and their taxing authority is a half measure that we cannot support. 

I have attached a spreadsheet with data from the Ralston Public Schools to illustrate the potential unintended consequences of adding additional levy caps.  The top represents our valuation and property taxation growth over the last four years.  The bottom represents a scenario where growth in property tax asking is limited by the proposed 2.5% basic allowable growth.  As you can see on the far right, our funding totals between state aid and local property tax funds are artificially restricted by LB 986.  Granted we assume state aid would eventually catch up and allow us to recover some of the funding lost in property taxes, we will constantly be in a position where some of our funds are delayed by a year or more.  In addition to the delay in funds,  we are concerned of the state’s ability to meet its obligations to the TEEOSA formula without tapping into new dedicated revenue sources.

Thank you for your time and your continued commitment to the people of the State of Nebraska.  I will try and answer any questions you may have for us at this time.

Jason Buckingham

Asst. Superintendent

Ralston Public Schools