As legislators mull options, farmers plead for property tax relief

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 10:41 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 9:59 AM CST
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GAGE COUNTY, Neb. (KOLN) - Ken Pralle’s home outside Wymore has been a construction site for more than a decade, with exposed insulation, steel rungs of scaffolding, plastic lining drawn like curtains.

Pralle’s home sits at a crossroads of his family’s past and coming future, but he said that future is uncertain. His renovations, which started in 2009, froze in the early 2010s after he was hit by what he calls a “tsunami” of property taxes.

“There’s a little bit of hopelessness there because you do not have the ability to control your own future,” he said.

Pralle has about 600 acres of land, and he said the spike in taxes has him just getting by, unable to refurbish his home.

Some legislative bills proposed this session, like the ones introduced by State Senator Tom Briese, seek to address that issue by bulking up property tax relief through tax credits. Briese says that will go well alongside bills championed by Governor Jim Pillen, including one that would change how land value is assessed in Nebraska. Briese says the way things are now, farmers are feeling the pinch.

“Now, we have another run up in ag land prices, and that’s going to lead to another significant uptick in the property tax burden for farmers and ranchers in our state,” Briese, who represents District 41, said.

But, critics of Briese’s proposals say increased property tax credits, given to farmers after income taxes are collected, are unsustainable and could cause cuts to other state programs.

“The most sustainable way to provide property tax relief in the state of Nebraska is to fully fund K-12 education at the state level,” Rebecca Firestone, executive director at the OpenSky Policy Institute.

Governor Pillen has proposed to increase education funding, but not to that extent.

Pralle is hoping for a radical change in property taxes, but for now, he’s biding his time and waiting to build again.

“It just depends on what those guys up there in Lincoln decide to do,” Pralle said. “I mean, that’s where it comes right down to.”