LINCOLN, NEB – An array of interests representing taxpayers across the Southeast Community College’s (SCC) 15 county service area have come together to oppose SCC’s $369 million bond issue targeted for renovations, construction, and acquisition of facilities across the SCC system. State lawmakers, businesses, and farm groups joined forces announcing the “Vote No 369” coalition, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.
“This group of individuals and organizations have come together to share a common voice for taxpayers across the 15 county SCC area. Collectively, our members and constituents have made it clear that this bond proposal does not meet the needs of taxpayers in the SCC district who, if this measure passes, will see their property tax burdens further skyrocket as they underwrite this massive bond measure. “Vote No 369’s” purpose is to make sure that message is broadly shared with voters,” said Tim Hruza, legal counsel for the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA).
The “Vote No 369” coalition partners include former Gov. Dave Heineman, State Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, State Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo, State Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, the Lincoln Independent Business Association, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, and the Nebraska Soybean Association.
“Property taxes are too high in Nebraska. The economy is sluggish. Commodity prices and cattle prices are down. Southeast Community College is a good school but now is not the time for a $369 million increase in property taxes on Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, small business owners, and homeowners,” said former Gov. Heineman in a statement announcing the coalition.
Nebraska State Sen. Laura Ebke, who joined the group in a news event at the State Capitol pointed to the overriding concerns the coalition has with the $369 million measure.
“All of our coalition partners have an appreciation for the important role community colleges and SCC play in helping grow and prepare Nebraska’s labor force. However, this specific measure asks too much of taxpayers, will expose taxpayers to higher taxes for too long, and is just too risky in that it leaves the door open for SCC to raise taxes even further, because even if this measure is approved, SCC has additional state-granted levy authority for construction projects,” said Sen. Ebke.
Terry Keebler, a farmer from Sterling and member the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors indicated the measure presents major challenges not just for homeowners and businesses, but area farmers as well.
“Property taxes are one of the largest costs of doing business for farmers and now rival the costs of inputs like seed and fertilizer,” said Keebler. “If this bond passes, an average sized farm operation in the 15 county SCC area could see an increase in property taxes of $38,000 over the estimated 25-year life of the bond. That’s real money that won’t be available for families to reinvest in their operations at a time when the ag economy is struggling,” said Keebler. “As a voter and a taxpayer you can be a supporter of SCC and still vote no on this measure. We’re simply asking SCC to be responsible when asking to take money out of the pockets of taxpayers.”
Several of the partnering organizations had previously announced their opposition to the measure citing not only the overall costs, which would top one-half of a billion dollars in new property taxes once interest was applied, but also concerns about the lack of specific details about how, where, and when the monies would be spent. The groups will now work collectively in their efforts to focus on bringing awareness about the realities of the proposal to voters in the district heading toward the Nov. 8 election.
Statements from Coalition Partners:
“Nebraska’s community colleges are a point of pride, but SCC has raised property taxes by 103% over the last 10 years. We aren’t trying to stop SCC from making necessary improvements. What we’re saying is that this proposal is too much, especially at a time when Nebraskans are demanding property tax relief. If SCC cares about the sustainability of our communities and wants to move forward together on a more manageable plan, we’ll be at the table. It’s critical we establish that there is a difference between wants and needs.”
– State Senator Jerry Johnson
“Education is very important to Nebraska Cattlemen. We know there is a need for improvements on some of the campuses in the SCC system, but we cannot support a $369 million bond that will continue to increase property taxes for our members while we are still searching for overall tax relief. This proposal lacks clarity as it asks too much of Nebraska property tax payers.”
– Dick Hollman of Hallam, Nebraska Cattlemen’s board of directors
“We have heard from producers in the area that already pay a substantial amount in property taxes that are not in favor of the project due to the proposed property tax increases. The “shoot for the moon” broad approach of their project proposed is concerning for ag producers and all tax payers. We fully support and understand the important role our community colleges play in preparing the workforce that will someday be a part of our rural communities and the next generation of ag producers in these communities. The proposal needs to look at their current taxing authority and prioritize these projects and look at other avenues for raising the funds.”
– Dennis Fujan, Nebraska Soybean Association president, Saunders county
Vote No 369 is a coalition of taxpayer interests opposed to the passage of the Southeast Community College’s proposed $369 million bond measure. Coalition partners include former Gov. Dave Heineman, State Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, State Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo, State Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, the Lincoln Independent Business Association, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, and the Nebraska Soybean Association. For more information or to learn more about the VoteNo369 coalition visit www.voteno369.com or follow the coalition on Facebook or Twitter.