COMMENTS TO THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE
LB 987 (Briese) Adopt the School District Property Tax Limitation Act
Jason Buckingham, Asst. Superintendent Ralston Public Schools
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 am presenting today in opposition of LB 987.
As I mentioned in previous testimony today, the creation of additional limits does not get at the base issue of school funding and property taxes. As many of you have heard before, the real issue in funding is the limited amount of state support in our current formula. Restricting growth of property tax collection by school districts does not effectively resolve the issue. Instead it creates yet another example of the erosion of local control, and in my district’s case, would create a restriction in access to funding.
As I mentioned in earlier testimony, the average growth of spending by the Nebraska Department of Education over the past ten years has been around 2.3% per year. (www.statespending.nebraska.gove/history/index.php ) That figure is pretty conservative when considering the growth of expenditures in health insurance, salary and other payroll expenses. Many government entities like the State of Nebraska have incurred much larger average increases over the same ten-year period.
One of the significant issues we see with LB 987 is that it limits the amount of property tax increase, but remains silent on how local effort rate will be calculated for the TEEOSA formula. If the formula as written still calculates local resources at the assessed valuation level, districts would see a decrease in the funds generated from local property taxes and would not see a correction from state aid. As an example, I have included the property valuation increases for the Ralston Public Schools over the last 28 years. It is significant to note that our increases in property valuation were very inconsistent. In years 2008-2015, LB 987 would not have had an impact on our ability to levy taxes, however if you look at the years when the assessed valuations in our district corrected to market value, like years 2019-2021, our district would not have been able to levy taxes that more closely met the current valuation of our district. Capping the taxation growth at 3% would cause our district to be underfunded due to the way the TEEOSA formula calculates local effort rate. We are highly concerned that districts in situations similar to mine would experience funding restrictions that were unintended.
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.
Ralston Public Schools