Nebraska Property taxes, round 2
From $90 up to $200 per cow for property taxes are too high, say Nebraska ranchers, but that is reality for many.
“I own land near Seward, Nebraska and also in the Dunning area. In Seward I can run a cow/calf pair for 5 to 6 months on three and a half acres of grass, the property taxes on that land costs me 90 dollars a cow. In Dunning it takes twelve acres to run a cow for the summer and taxes are 60 dollars a cow. I have a good friend near Wichita, Kansas, he runs a pair on about six and half acres and taxes are 5 dollars a cow,” said Merlyn Nielsen, retired UNL professor and one of the founding members of Fair Nebraska, an grass-roots movement dedicated to relieving the property tax burden on Agriculture land.
Steve Erdman, Nebraska State Senator from district 47 said at least one of his rancher constituents pays $200 per cow to the state for property taxes.
According to the economic study “Reducing the Property Tax Burden on Nebraska Farmland: An Evaluation of the Fair Nebraska Plan” by Ernest Goss. Ph.D. and Scott Strain, M.S. “Between 2013 and 2017, Nebraska’s agriculture sector suffered a 45.1 percent fall in earnings, but a jump of 34.5 percent in farmland property taxes.
In 2016, property tax per bushel of corn in Nebraska at $0.65 were substantially more than the $0.24 per bushel of corn in Kansas”
“The only way to lower taxes is to cut spending. We (Nebraska) spend like a drunken sailor, I apologize to the sailors not to the drunks,” said Erdman. “The money isn’t spent wisely, we need to make spending cuts before raising taxes, and change the focus on where the tax money is coming from.”
The rural areas of Nebraska are declining in population while the urban areas are growing which will result in the legislative districts being redrawn with the rural districts losing some of their representatives and the urban areas gaining some. This will give western Nebraska even less representation. “The primary reason the population of western Nebraska continues to decline is because farming and ranching has become increasingly more and more difficult. Low crop prices, high property taxes and unfair agricultural land valuation are causing more and more farmers and ranchers to go out of business,” said Senator Erdman.
“Our high property taxes are preventing people from moving to our state and they are causing good people to leave our state. I had a producer tell me he is paying 210 dollars per cow in property taxes and he doesn’t think he will be able to bring his son back into the operation,” Senator Erdman. “The bottom line is that our legislature lacks the intestinal fortitude to grant the property tax relief they so desperately need.”
Senator Erdman has been working on bill LB 482 that would forgive property taxes if the property was destroyed. The bill prorates the property taxes of those landowners whose homes or buildings have been destroyed by fire or natural disaster to the date of its destruction for that tax year. If crop land is ruined the owners are able to ask their county to reassess their land values but that won’t help in the current year.
Senator Matt Williams says producers in his state face many challenges. “Certainly property taxes are high but they are just one expense that has gone up. Crop and cattle prices have decreased but their expenses have increased. Agriculture is number one in our state and we need to improve the climate for producers. Crop land in the Platte Valley is still worth around $9,000 an acre so cash rent in around 320 to 330 dollars an acre. Property taxes are around 25 percent of the cash rent.”
There has been a consolidation in agriculture over the last 20 to 25 years, Williams said. “Large producers that are profitable are willing to take over more land. It has been hard to cash flow a lot of agriculture operations now, but I have seen an improvement over last year as producers are getting a handle on expenses. They have to continue to be smarter about their marketing and what they growing,” Senator Williams said.
Currently there is a petition drive to put a measure on the 2020 ballot, which allows the registered voters of the State to vote on a constitutional amendment for receiving 35 percent of their property tax bill back every year in the form of a credit or refund on their state income tax return. This measure has been named “The 35 Percent Solution.”
A debate on May 7 on Legislative Bill 289 ended without a decision made. The bill would have raised sales taxes to lower property taxes and had faced opposition from many in the state government including Governor Ricketts.
Many agriculture producers in Nebraska say they are growing desperate for a long term solution and need their representatives to stand up for them before it is too late. F