Hall County property taxpayers discuss impact of rising valuations
The Grand Island Independent and NTV both reported on Tuesday’s meeting of the Hall County Commissioners, where taxpayers and community advocates expressed their concerns with proposed increases in local property assessments.
Property valuations are conducted by county assessors. Their assessments are then multiplied by property tax rates, often called levies, set by locally elected boards with property taxing authority. If a taxpayer’s property tax assessment rises, their property tax bill will increase, even if the property tax rate remains the same.
The property tax discussion usually revolves around the impact on homeowners and the owners of agricultural land, but the Hall County meeting’s public comments were noteworthy for discussing the impact on renters.
Area landlords in attendance reminded officials that the potential increase in property taxes would have to be passed onto their tenants, many of whom are struggling after the community was hard-hit by COVID-19.
According to The Independent, the executive director of a local homeless shelter even noted that potential rent increases could prevent residents who had left her shelter from being able to continue affording their own housing, sending them back into the system.
Nebraska’s tight housing market has contributed to increased housing prices and, ultimately, higher property valuations. A Kansas City Federal Reserve report noted that housing prices in the state rose at the sixth fastest rate over the last decade.
It should be noted that local boards are not obligated to keep all of the taxpayer dollars that would come their way with an increase in property valuations.
Last year, the Legislature passed a transparency law requiring local boards to adjust their property tax rates in proportion to the increase in valuation, unless the board held a separate hearing to vote on taking in new revenues.
Previously, boards could adopt the valuation tax increase automatically simply by adopting a new budget.
This means that although rising assessments are not within the control of locally elected boards, it is within their control to decide how much of that increased assessment is really needed to pay for essential services in their community.
This year, the Nebraska Legislature’s Revenue Committee heard a bill that would strengthen the transparency measures for local property tax increases by requiring counties to send taxpayers notices of proposed property tax increase votes by mail, along with information about public meetings where the increases will be decided.
The proposal did not receive a priority designation or a committee vote and is not likely reach full legislative debate in the 2020 session.