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Bill in Nebraska Legislature would cap school district spending

Posted at 6:37 PM, Feb 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 19:37:39-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The Nebraska Legislature tussled over the issue of local control in Lincoln on Tuesday, with the ultimate question being: Should the state put a lid on how many dollars of property taxes a school district takes from residents every year?

It’s an issue that split the legislature.

"There’s no reason that the state doesn’t impose some sort of logical controls on their spending," said Sen. Curt Friesen.

"I trust voters in Nebraska who elect their local governments to know what’s best for them," said Sen. Megan Hunt.

The goal of the legislation from Senator Tom Briese is to provide relief for property owners on their taxes.

"This is a small piece in our efforts to provide Nebraskans with property tax relief, but it can also help facilitate reform of education funding," said Briese.

Senator Friesen said the Legislature has passed hundreds of millions of dollars of property tax relief in the past, but taxpayers saw little relief due to school boards upping the amount they take every year.

"It just puts a little bit more pressure on them to try and hold down spending so we don’t see these huge increases while we’re trying to provide property tax relief," said Friesen.

Senator Adam Morfeld says if Nebraskans don’t like what their school boards are doing, they can simply vote them out.

"There already are limitations, that’s called the elected school board, and they will be held accountable if their constituents know they’re overspending," said Morfeld.

How this would all work is a little complicated.

The base cap amount the bill gives is 2.5% or the average rise of inflation over the last three years.

From there, with a three-fourths vote, school boards could increase the amount anywhere from 4% to 7%.

Other options: school districts can raise their amount by a percentage of their growth or by two other metrics that cause school budgets to rise.

If you’re confused by all that, you’re not alone.

“I’m trying to figure out, through all the mechanisms, whether it does nothing, or it does something, literally I’m still working on that part,” said Sen. Wendy DeBoer.

Senator Briese tells 3 News Now he’s expecting a vote next Tuesday on the bill.

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