Local officials face pushback over property tax increases

Several agencies held a public hearing on Tuesday, which is necessary by law, to go over property taxes.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:54 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Outside the Lincoln-Lancaster County Building, a solitary man stood in protest with a sign that said “Overtaxed.”

“I’m paying $400 a month just in taxes on my house,” said Dave Ludvik, a Lincoln homeowner.

But inside, Ludvik—who’s on a fixed income—didn’t stand alone. Thirty minutes before a joint hearing for local agencies on their property tax increases, a line of locals, bearing the pink slips that tell them to pay more in property taxes, began to fill the room.

“I don’t feel that we’re being listened to,” said Scott Gatewood, a Lincoln homeowner.

Their message consolidated on a few issues: These increases—spurred by a 22% increase in Lancaster County property valuations—isn’t fair to people struggling to make ends meet and it’s pushing people out.

“We’re supposed to really do more with less with our own budgets, and I still am left with this feeling that all of you need to be doing that as well,” said Amanda Carnes, a homeowner.

Local taxing authorities—Hickman, Waverly, Lincoln, Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College—were all on the panel. This year, some of the agencies decreased their tax levies, but the exploding valuations led to an overall increase in the amount of taxes levied.

Jon Carlson, who works in the Mayor’s office, said crafting the budget was a balancing act between concerns over increases and making investments people want to see.

“The new valuation that the county returned would have generated $18 million in additional revenue for the City,” Carlson said. “The City lowered its tax rate to forego $6 million of that and is investing $12 million in important community investments.”

About 75% of that $12 million will go toward public safety. Lincoln Public Schools similarly brought down its levy by 14 cents, though the tax dollar amount is still rising.

“We also have fixed cost increases like transportation,” said Liz Standish, the associate superintendent of business affairs for LPS. “We also have a community of prioritizing things like additional investments in early childhood.”