A coalition of major Nebraska agricultural groups has endorsed a proposal designed to lower property taxes and ensure state funding for K-12 schools by raising cigarette and alcohol taxes and eliminating other tax breaks.
State lawmakers have introduced a proposal (LB 497) to ensure the state of Nebraska provides resources to cover basic education costs for all of Nebraska’s K-12 public school students. Today, only 69 of Nebraska’s 244 school districts receive state equalization aid. The limited assistance has led to significant imbalance in how Nebraska funds education for some students compared to others across the state.
“Good schools and quality education are important to our kids, our families, and our businesses. Because of its importance, the state has an obligation to support our children’s education, regardless of where they live or the school they attend,” said Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, the bill’s sponsor.
While all K-12 schools depend on property taxes for funding, schools receiving little or no state equalization rely much more heavily on local property taxes for funding. The proposal would broaden the sources used to fund Nebraska’s K-12 schools to alleviate pressure on local property taxes.
“The way we’ve been funding schools has put tremendous pressure on property taxes. Roughly 60 percent of all property taxes collected in the state go to K-12 school funding. As a result, Nebraskans now pay some of the highest property tax bills in the country,” said Friesen.
The bill includes some controversial proposals, including the elimination of sales tax exemptions for groceries.
Farm groups and Friesen say the bill could change and they’re willing to consider other ideas. Several senators have co-sponsored the bill.