Nebraska bill would cap school district spending

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) – The Nebraska Legislature sparred Tuesday over the issue of local control in Lincoln, with the ultimate question being: Should the state cap the number of property tax dollars a school district levies each year on the residents?

This is a question that has divided the legislature.

“There’s no reason the state shouldn’t impose some kind of logical control over their spending,” said Sen. Curt Friesen.

“I trust the voters of Nebraska who elect their local governments to know what’s best for them,” Senator Megan Hunt said.

The purpose of Senator Tom Briese’s legislation is to provide tax relief for property owners.

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

Senator Friesen said the Legislature has passed hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax relief in the past, but taxpayers have seen little relief because councils schools are increasing the amount they collect each year.

“It just puts a little more pressure on them to try to contain spending so that we don’t see these huge increases while we try to provide property tax relief,” Friesen said.

Sen. Adam Morfeld says if Nebraskanians don’t like what their school boards are doing, they can just vote them out.

“There are already limits, it’s called the elected school board, and they will be held accountable if their constituents know they are spending too much,” Morfeld said.

How this would all work is a bit convoluted.

The basic cap amount indicated by the invoice is 2.5% or the average increase in inflation over the last three years.

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

Other options: School districts can increase their amount by a percentage of their growth or two other measures that cause school budgets to increase.

If you’re confused by all of this, you’re not alone.

“I’m trying to figure out, through all the mechanisms, if he’s doing nothing or if he’s doing something, literally, I’m still working on that part,” Senator Wendy DeBoer said.

Senator Briese told 3 News Now he expects a vote next Tuesday on the bill.

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