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Krist talks Butler County property tax reliance

August 23, 2018

David City Public Schools superintendent Chad Denker is fed up with the district’s reliance on county property taxes when it comes to providing annual funding for the students it serves.

During a recent interview with The Banner-Press, Denker said that approximately 70 percent of the district’s revenue streams come from ag land property taxes and that the district receives only approximately $110,000 in state aid each year.

“We are very reliant on property taxes and it’s just not fair to our farmers and ag community,” Denker said. “The state and legislature need to look at the TEOOSA (student aid) formula and they need to revamp it. I don’t think anyone has seen property taxes skyrocketing like they have the last 10 years and there’s not enough adjustment in that formula to account for that.”

Sen. Bob Krist, a District 10 representative whose constituency encompasses portions of northwest Omaha, unincorporated areas of north-central Douglas County and the City of Bennington, is looking to address some of the issues relating to property taxes should he be elected to the state’s highest elected seat during November’s general election gubernatorial race.

Released statistics from Krist’s office show that over the course of the last decade, property taxes have increased in Butler County by approximately 90 percent. In terms of property tax increase for each tax class, property taxes on ag land in Butler County have increased 141 percent, 4 percent residential and 37 percent on commercial properties.

In an effort to diminish reliance on property taxes by school districts, Krist aims to make sure that 20 percent of income taxes paid by homeowners are returned to local school districts. Currently, released information shows that less than 3 percent of income taxes are being returned to Nebraska public schools.

For David City Public Schools, a return of 20 percent of income tax funneling into the district would result in an increase in state funding for the district by as much as $760,354, information from Krist’s office says. Krist said this would directly reduce pressure on local property taxpayers.

During his tenure in the legislature, Krist’s colleagues elected him to serve as the chairman of the Executive Board. His committee assignments include the Judiciary Committee, the Education Committee, the Legislative Performance Audit Committee, the legislature’s Planning Committee and the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature.

Prior to 2017, Krist was a registered Republican before classifying himself nonpartisan for around six months before ultimately running in May’s gubernatorial race as a Democrat against current Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Krist had a dominating showing in the gubernatorial Democratic primary, garnering nearly 60 percent of the vote. His competitors, Vanessa Ward and Tyler Davis, collected 29 and 11 percent of votes, respectively.

Ricketts received an overwhelming 81 percent of the votes over Krystal Gabel, who received approximately 19 percent of state’s Republican support.

In a state that bleeds red not only for its football team but also on its voting map, Krist said he believes his years of Republican registration make people more receptive to hearing what he has to say about issues relating to education funding and property tax reform, which he said have been heavily mismanaged under Ricketts’ watch.

During this race, Krist said he and running mate, Lynne Walz, District 15 senator out of Fremont, haven’t had to adjust their priorities much because their constituency’s priorities align with their own.

“We didn’t have to realign that much because we both knew that property taxes were high on the list and that education was high on the list,” he said. “We both knew that behavioral, mental health and substance abuse treatments are almost non-existent across the state, both for juveniles and for adults, so that’s something that needs addressing.”

One of the primary reasons Krist said he made the decision to run for governor during the last 30 days of legislative session 2017 was because, in his eyes, the Unicameral has become so partisan.

“The first six years I was in the legislature, for six years there was active debate, there was consensus, there was more collegiality about getting things done – of course, there were always divides, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But there was discussion and things happening, and this last four years have just been chaos.”

Wanting to bring about legislative reform, Krist tossed his hat into the ring of the governor’s race.

“You can lead, follow or get out of the way, and I wasn’t ready to get out of the way,” he said. “That’s when I really made the decision.”

Ricketts and Krist officially square off in the Nov. 6 general election.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net .

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