Nebraska lawmakers advance bill to cut farm taxes

Residents and business owners in rural communities might have to think twice about approving a school bond issue under an amended bill given first-round approval in the Nebraska Legislature on Wednesday.

Sen. Tom Briese of Albion sponsored the proposal dealing with school bond issues. He and other rural senators said it was unfair for farmers and ranchers — who own most of the property in rural school districts — to shoulder the bulk of the cost of paying off school bond debt when they represent only a small minority of a district’s voters.

Under LB2, which advanced on a 38-3 vote, the property valuation of ag land, when it comes to paying off school bonds, would be reduced from the current 75% of actual value to 50%. That would give farmers and ranchers a slight tax break, while shifting more of the burden to those who own homes and non-ag businesses in rural school districts.

That change, he said, would give voters in town “more skin in the game” when voting on school bond issues, and force them to pay more attention before approving a bond issue for a new school or addition.

Briese distributed a packet to fellow senators showing that the owner of a $150,000 home in a rural community would pay $94 in taxes on an annual bond payment of $1 million, while the owner of a 900-acre farm would pay $2,351 — 25 times more. He and other rural senators portrayed LB2 as a “fairness” issue that would provide a small amount of tax relief to farmers and ranchers who have seen their property tax bills rise 180% over the past decade.

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