A group of 10 legislators has formed a study group to review the state school funding formula.
Education Committee chair, Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, says the group will do research on the formula known as TEEOSA. TEEOSA stands for the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act, which calculates the sources of school revenue.
Groene says the group will study the changes which have occurred to the formula since it was adopted in 1990. Groene claims the original sponsors of TEEOSA never foresaw a rapid rise in property valuations, such as has occurred with agricultural land and even with residences in the state’s two urban centers: Omaha and Lincoln. That spike in property values along with changes made by the Unicameral over the years shifted its reliance onto property tax revenue, according to Groene.
It also caused a divide in the legislature.
Groene says it’s past time for the Unicameral to address the thorny issue.
“Quite frankly folks, the divide in the Unicameral between urban and rural is state aid to schools,” Groene tells reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “That’s the big one. That divides us. It starts fights. It ends the fights. And if we could come to answer to that we can go on to bigger answers about needs.”
Sen. Tom Briese of Albion says education funding reform could provide needed property tax relief. Briese contends high property taxes are choking off economy growth.
“When we have ag land property taxes 2 ½ times higher than the average of the six surrounding states, when we have residential property taxes 65% higher than the average of the six surrounding states, that’s not conducive to economic growth,” according to Briese. “We have to do something about it.”
The study group will work throughout the interim with an eye of proposing legislation in next year’s legislative session.
Along with Sen. Groene and Briese, the working group includes Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk, and Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha