Editorial: Rejection of tax windfall is only fair

By February 6, 2017News

Lincoln Journal Star | February 2, 2017 – 

Credit Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird for quick reflexes on the need to reduce the city’s property tax rate in reaction to the spike in property values in the latest reassessment.

Some homeowners probably hadn’t even got around to checking their valuations before Gaylor Baird fired out a press release that she would lead an effort to trim the city’s property tax rate.

Not only was Gaylor Baird the quickest, she is also right.

Other parts of local government – Lincoln Public Schools and the Lancaster County government are the biggest — should adopt the same objective.

The rapid increase in property values in Lincoln – pushed upward by market demand — would provide a windfall if elected officials leave property tax rates where they are.

Home values in Lincoln jumped an average of 12.5 percent based on preliminary assessments, according to Lancaster County Assessor Norm Agena.

Normally Agena and his staff do countywide assessments every three years. But Agena moved up the schedule in response to the hot retail market, which is exactly what he should have done.

The state of Nebraska has rules that residential and commercial property in all counties must be assessed between 92 and 100 percent of market value. Failing to keep up will trigger a state review. The state Tax Equalization and Review Commission has authority to step in and order the increases. It’s preferable to keep the process under local control.

If the City Council leaves the rate where it is, City Hall could collect an additional $2 million to $3.5 million in property taxes, based on preliminary assessments.

Leirion pointed out that next year the city will be in the second year of a two-year budget.

“Our tax levy is set to meet the needs of our budget. With this early and unexpected revaluation, Lincoln homeowners are, in essence, seeing a tax increase – one that was not intended and is likely not needed to meet our budget requirements,” the councilwoman said.

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