From the Superintendent's Desk
As this year’s 106th Legislative session is unfolding, we are beginning to discover which bills “have legs,” as they say in the state house, as those bills emerge from committee and are introduced, debated, and advanced through the legislative process. One bill that obviously “has legs,” as indicated by the 47-0 vote it received by the legislative body, is LB 103. This bill was proposed by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha.
The intent of LB 103 is to require local government bodies such as schools, counties, and local governments to hold a public hearing and to pass a resolution, if they intend to increase the amount they collect in property taxes in the upcoming budget year. The resolution would include the following information, in order to inform the public of the governing body’s intent:
• The name of the political subdivision
• The amount of the property tax request
• How the total assessed property value of property differs from last year’s total assessed property value in percentage form
• The tax rate which would levy the same amount of property taxes as last year, when multiplied by the new total assessed property value
• The proposed property tax rate and the corresponding amount of dollars per $100 of assessed valuation represented by the proposed tax rate
• The amount of money the total operating budget of the political subdivision will exceed last year’s operating budget in percentage form
• A record vote of the governing body in passing a resolution or ordinance in favor of the increase
What many people who support this legislation and the concept of transparency and accountability in local government may not know is that school districts across the state already provide the majority of this information to the public on an annual basis and have done so for many years. In the school district’s budget document that is provided to the school district by the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, there is a page which must be completed by school districts and provided to the public in the form of a public notice. That document is called the “Notice of Special Hearing to Set Final Tax Request.”
Annually, the school district publishes this notice in the newspaper and invites the public to attend the corresponding public property tax request hearing at which the property tax for the next budget cycle is considered and voted on by the Ravenna Board of Education. This public notice provides information regarding the property tax request in actual dollars for the current year, the tax rate for the current year, the proposed property tax request in actual dollars for the next budget year, and the proposed tax rate for the next budget year.
The budget document that is prepared and made available to the public at the school district’s annual public budget hearing also contains information about the proposed expenditures for the next budget year, the current budget year, and the past budget year. In short, much if not all of the information proposed by Senator Linehan’s bill is readily available to those tax payers who are interested in the information. Complete budget documents for all school districts and political subdivisions across the state can also easily be found on line at the Auditor of Public Accounts website at: http://www.auditors.state.ne.us/ for those who are interested in learning more.