Part 1: Breaking Down Property Taxes
KEARNEY, Neb. —
Property taxes are something we all have to pay but do we know where it's really going?
Property taxes continue to be a controversial topic and may be the least understood.
We sat down with city, school and county leaders from Kearney, Hastings and Grand Island, attempting to break down one of the most confusing topics.
Inside Kearney City Hall, they're proud of their numbers and that the levy has stayed the same for three years.
"Tax rate in Kearney for property taxes for the City of Kearney is about 14 cents per one hundred dollars," said Finance Director for the City of Kearney Wendell Wessels.
But for the City of Grand Island, they say raising the levy was something they needed to do.
"I was okay with a property tax increase this past year to make sure we were able to get the budget balanced for 2018," said Mayor of Grand Island Jeremy Jensen. "I won't be in favor of it the following year. I think we need to figure out a way to continue to control expenses and because of that we are going to have to figure out a year from now some more things that we can live without, and it's just really how it's going to have to be for the foreseeable future."
With property valuations constantly changing, taxes can vary each year, increasing or decreasing.
"This year, the farm economy is so soft, so bad that actually that valuation went down a little bit. We certainly didn't have much of an increase at all in our valuation and therefore our tax base," said Hall County Board Supervisor Pamela Lancaster.
In each city, public schools receive over half of property revenue.
Kearney Public receives the highest percentage of the Tri-Cities.
"We're being very focused and very purposeful about our spending. Every year is difficult because there are so many things you identify that you really wish you could move forward, but then sometimes you just have to be practical about what you can get done this year," said Hastings Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Virgil Harden.
Kearney Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said they are always looking for different ways to not have to increase taxes.
"The board did elect to raise the levy one cent this year but I think it's imperative on us and I believe the board is in alignment with that to look at other opportunities to generate revenue or reduce expenditures." said Superintendent for Kearney Public Schools Dr. Kent Edwards.
But in Hastings, they're not giving up on taxpayers.
"I will say this. Nebraskans over time have proven that they value education, and we have confidence in the people of Nebraska that this state will find a way," said Director of Finance for Hastings Public Schools Jeff Schneider.
County board chairs all agree, there isn't much left to trim.
"We were able to do that and not increase the levy so leave it the same this year by cutting all kinds of things and we don't have much left to cut because we've been doing this for a couple of years now," Lancaster said.
In Hastings, Adams County is receiving only 12.1 percent of property tax revenue- lowest of the counties.
"I feel that the different organizations or the different elected officials are doing a really great job. They're trying to keep their budgets down. As far as trying to cut it, I think they've cut it about the best they can do," said Adams County Board of Supervisors Eldon Orthmann.
The highest property tax rate average of the Tri-cities is Hall County while the lowest is Adams County, according the the Nebraska Department of Revenue.
Many of the officials seem to be on the same page, tight with money and worried about the future.
Part two of series will air on Nov. 15 and will cover what cities, schools and counties are spending the most money on.