About 80 people turned out last night for a joint budget hearing for the Chadron and Crawford school districts.
Such multi-unit hearings are required by a new state law whenever a taxing unit’s total property taxes exceed a set growth limit from the previous year – 2% for school districts.
The school districts, cities, counties and other entities proposing budgets and tax requests over their limits must send postcards announcing the hearing to all property owners in that unit.
Last night, Superintendents Ginger Meyer of Chadron and Mo Hanks of Crawford outlined their budget situations and why they’re proposed more an a 2% increase in property tax money.
Meyer blamed valuation going up 6.8% while Hanks explained that the Crawford school district lowered its tax rate a few years ago and had to generate more money to meet key needs.
Most of the 10 landowners who testified were passionate about the need for property taxes and valuations to go down. Several complaint the valuation on some of their land jumped anywhere from 25% to about 50% this year, fueling tax increases.
Carl Storjohann, who ranches south of the Job Corps Center, was emotional as he said he’s being taxed right out of his property while Jim West said the valuation of his 12 acres just north of Chadron went up 55% with his appeal denied because he land isn’t zoned as agricultural.
Casey Schuhmacher objected to Meyer’s claim that because the tax rate is unchanged, the Chadron tax request is “levy neutral.” He also blasted the Chadron City Council for granting TIF – tax increment financing – for the Holiday Inn Express, saying the school district is missing out on thousands of dollars of taxes each year.
Travis Nitsch, who ran for county commissioner in the Republican primary, and Karen Snook both complained about the amount of money being spent on sports with Snook also calling on the district to “cut some of the fat.”
Lynn Miller, Cynthia Maginnes, and Roger Sanford all pushed both school boards to support the ongoing campaign to scrap the current state tax system with a consumption tax – a souped-up sales tax on virtually everying that would replace all other taxes.
Most of the landowners joined Hanks and Meyer in urging everyone in the region to lobby their senators and ones in other parts of the state to support proposals to adjust the state aid formula to bring tax relief to rural landowners in districts with small tax bases such as Chadron and Crawford.
The budget hearing lasted about 50-minutes and left both school boards, who were part of the proceedings, with the need to hold meetings before Friday to approve their budgets and tax requests and submit them to the state.
The Chadron board met immediately after the hearing while the Crawford School Board will meet Thursday night at 6:00 in the district’s Distance-Learning Building.