Mayor Chris Beutler today asked State lawmakers for help to reduce the local property tax burden by reinstating State aid to municipalities. Beutler testified before the Nebraska Legislature's Tax Modernization Committee at a public hearing in Norfolk. Beutler, a former State Senator, addressed the Committee as Mayor of Lincoln and as President of the League of Nebraska Municipalities.
"On behalf of the League's 380-plus member municipalities, I respectfully submit that if one of the goals of this process is to reduce the burden of local property taxes, the Committee should strongly consider reinstating and fully funding State aid to municipalities as one of its recommendations. Such aid is, essentially, a form of property tax relief," Beutler said.
Beutler noted that State aid was initiated to help minimize the impact on local governments of property tax exemptions granted by the Legislature.
As the State dealt with budget shortfalls, State aid to local governments was reduced over a number of years, and in 2011, the remaining $11.3 million was eliminated. While the State aid amount may have represented a relatively low percentage of total budgets, Beutler said it helped to funded significant services and programs at the local level.
The Mayor outlined the $7.6 million in budget cuts the City of Lincoln has made since the 2006-07 fiscal year. Despite significant growth in population and area, the City's civilian workforce has declined by 9.7 percent, or about 140 jobs.
"Municipalities across the State face the challenge of limiting the burden on local taxpayers while trying to finance State and federal unfunded mandates, including paying municipal employees comparable wages and benefits, fulfilling storm water requirements, financing landfills and complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, just to name a few," Beutler said. "Like the State, municipal governments also face increasing costs over which they have no control, including utilities, health insurance rates, labor contracts and many others."
Beutler said lid and levy restrictions the Legislature has imposed on local governments have reduced funding options, but he thanked them for passing the local option sales tax bill in 2012. "Your municipalities are grateful to the Legislature for trusting our local voters on this important issue," Beutler said.