BEATRICE – Four local government subdivisions went before the public Monday night in a Joint Public Agency hearing, required under state law for entities that increase their tax requests by more than two percent.  Southern Schools in Wymore, the City of Wymore, the City of Beatrice and Beatrice Public Schools were on the list giving the meeting attended by about 50 people at the Gage County District Court room.  

But it seems the main thing still sticking in the craw of taxpayers is the big jump in property valuations. Double-digit increases in residential and commercial valuations were seen this year. That means local governments that keep their tax rate the same, get more tax funding based on the higher valuations.
Beatrice resident Mitch Menke wonders where it all ends.

"When is enough, enough? To all of the members here....just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. A lot of the property valuations from the people I've talked to went up, like 20 percent. Which again, I know its Gage County property taxes, but that's where they're going to get their budgets from. Our property taxes went up, I've seen anywhere from as little as 3 percent, to 20 percent or better."

Beatrice resident Sterling Glenn said people are concerned with the higher property valuations. A retired educator, Glenn said his home went up $25,000 this year.

"We haven't put that into our house in the 25 years we've lived there, total...of any kind of improvements. Shame on me, but a lot of us may not have that kind of an income, when retired, as some may be in this room. We aren't making any kind of an increase in our salary every year, with social security or retirement that we're on. And, I would honestly just say to all of the entities that are here...the school districts, the may say you're fiscally responsible and I'm sure you think you are. You're answering to us, like tonight or at your meetings later. But, I would honestly say, being in education for 40 years....when we had those budget problems, we had cuts."

School districts often take the brunt of the criticism because locally, they take the largest share of the overall property tax bill. This past year, the Nebraska Legislature passed an education package promising more state aid and $1,500 in foundation aid per student. But, retired Tri County School Superintendent, Randy Schleuter, says the law doesn’t treat all districts the same…and there is skepticism about the future of the plan.

"Three years from now, that $1,500 is cut by 40-percent. Special education, which is going to be paid at 80-percent...this is the second time the legislature has set that reimbursement at 80-percent. The first time they did that, they reimbursed schools to approximately 40-percent. The legislature has also established a $100 million hole in the general fund budget. So, at some point, that is going to have to be replenished somewhere, or you're going to have to cut budgets. What I would see, historically, the state government then reducing dollars for education."

Beatrice Public School Superintendent Jason Alexander says his district doesn’t receive the $1,500 per student in aid, because it is considered an equalized district. The district is seeing a nominal $5,000 increase in state aid this year. It sees the greatest benefit in the increased reimbursement for special education.