Gilson cites loss funding for school districts

The Nebraska Legislature's proposed Legislative Bill 974 has many people divided along both sides of the fence. The bill, proposed by Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, has the intended purpose to provide property tax relief.

While the Blair Community Schools Supt. Randy Gilson is in favor of property tax relief, he is opposed to the bill's overall effect it will have on Nebraska's school systems and specifically how it will affect the education opportunities for Blair students.

“We appreciate Sen. Linehan and the Revenue Committee for seeking a solution to provide immediate property tax relief, which we are all in favor of,” Gilson said. “I oppose LB 974 because it will jeopardize the basic education for 2,196 students in Blair and for 326,000 students across Nebraska.”

Gilson said that Blair will likely spend nearly $22,000 less in the 2019-20 school year than it did in the 2012-13 school year, noting that budget controls imposed by the state have worked, but LB 974 calls for a CPI factor to reduce spending even more and cut basic needs and opportunities for Blair school students.

Blair's state aid was significantly reduced in 2017 due to TEEOSA's change to remove the Teacher Education Allowance. From 2010-2016, Blair received an average of $374,207 in state aid because of the Teacher Education Allowance in state aid. Today, Blair receives zero.

“This repeated unstable funding of TEEOSA has already been devastating to students,” Gilson said. “Last year, Blair had to reduce $1.5 million as part of a second expenditure reduction plan in the past four years. LB 974 plans to take more revenue away leaving the funding for basic education even more at risk for our students.”

Gilson does support parts of the bill, however due to the state's unstable funding from TEEOSA and other funding programs for the state's school systems, he cannot support the cut in funding that would harm the basic education of Blair students.

“I urge the committee to keep working on this bill to add new revenue sources like the reduction of tax exemptions or by broadening the sales tax base,” Gilson said. “Both would provide more stable school funding. Let's work together so Nebraska can continue to improve on its U.S. News and World Report ranking of the sixth best in education and fourth highest graduation rate in the country.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts has spoken in support for LB 974.

“LB 974 is the main property tax bill under consideration in the Legislature,” he said in his weekly column, which was released Tuesday. “While its details are still being finalized, I support the bill’s general framework. It satisfies three core principles that must be part of any tax plan that provides real, sustainable relief. First, no tax increases. Second, protect the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund. Third, encourage spending restraint in local governments.”

Ricketts states that the only way to achieve long-term tax relief is to control spending at both the state and local levels while growingNebraska's economy.

He noted that on average, roughly 60 percent of Nebraskans' property tax bills are used by the K-12 government schools.

Ricketts is not alone with his support of LB 974. Among other outspoken supporters are the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Cattlemen,.

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