By Gordon Hopkins
After pushback from lawmakers as well as the public during a series of meetings, the Southeast Community College (SCC) Board of Governors approved a preliminary budget that includes an 8.5 cent tax levy rate per $100 of assessed valuation. This is a reduction from the maximum general-fund tax levy rate of 9.25 cents for general operations that the board originally voted for on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.
This year, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB (Legislative Bill) 243, called the “Adopt the School District Property Tax Limitation Act,” intended to change levying authority and provide aid to community college areas, and change provisions relating to the Tax Equalization and Review Commission and property and income taxes. The bill changes how community colleges are funded. Among other things, LB 243 replaces general-fund tax dollars with state funds by creating a 100 percent tax credit for property taxpayers for the transition year.
The change prompted the board to vote to raise the levy to the maximum. A sent a letter to senators in by the board said, in part, “Beginning with the 2024-2025 budget year, SCC will lose the authority to levy a general-fund property tax.”
“Based on a very careful and comprehensive study of its current and future needs, it is projected that the College will realize a revenue shortfall relative to its needs even if the 2023-2024 levy is raised to the maximum amount,” the letter continued. “What happens if there is a revenue shortfall? There will be no way after the fact to increase CCFF funding. SCC gets one opportunity as designed in LB 243 to set the baseline at the most appropriate level.”
The board warned that a shortfall could mean cutting programs and staff.
A number of state senators sent a letter to the board, objecting to the increase.
“This proposal runs counter to the intention of the Legislature in lowering the tax burden on the people of Nebraska,” the letter states. “Raising your levy to the maximum allowed under state law does not send a good message to Nebraskans. One of your own board members abstained from the vote for this very reason.”
SCC covers fifteen counties in the southeast corner of the state: Jefferson, Gage, Thayer, Saline, Fillmore, Lancaster, Seward, York, Cass, Otoe, Johnson, Pawnee, Nemaha, Saunders and Richardson.
By Gordon Hopkins