Douglas Co. Approves Budget with Property Tax Hike

Jake Wasikowski

Douglas Co. Approves Budget with Property Tax Hike

CREATED Jul. 9, 2013

Omaha, NE -- If you own a home in Douglas County, your property taxes are going up.  Tuesday morning, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved the budget, which includes a property tax increase.

It’s a 1.6 cent increase per $100 of your home's value.  In 2012, Douglas County's median home price was $142,000.  For a home that value, the increase amounts to about $23 more a year.  That money will cover a $3.2 million shortfall left in Douglas County's budget.  Commissioners say they deal with a “structural deficit” every year.

“We come in every year starting our budget with a $5 million shortfall,” said Mary Ann Borgeson the Douglas Co. Commissioner for District 6. "I would say to the taxpayers that at the quality of services we provide you have to fund those to a certain point."

State Senator Jeremy Nordquist says Nebraska has a $679 million cash reserve, the largest reserve the state's ever seen.  He says what increased the fund is eliminating state aid to cities and counties, while adding more mandates.

"So by requiring our counties to do more and giving them less aid, we're starting to see impact of that and that's more property taxes at the local level," Sen. Nordquist explained.

Senator Nordquist is on the Tax Modernization Committee, and hopes the state can help communities decrease property taxes soon.

"We really need to focus on how we can restore that aid back to cities and counties helping them to reduce property tax burden," Sen. Nordquist described.

If the tax rate is approved in September, it would show up on the property tax bills due in March 2014 and July 2014.  The Douglas County Assessor’s Office says there are 180,000 taxable parcels in the county.

Here’s an explanation of the “structural deficit” which was described earlier.  Every year, the county comes up short because expenses go up and revenues go down.  Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom says it has been trying to get commissioners to do strategic budgeting that would include working with departments every year to come up with a business plan to cut their budget, while bringing down costs.  Several commissioners agree the budgeting needs re-organization, and have agreed to work with the group.