LINCOLN - In her latest legislative column State Sen. Julie Slama reminds readers that the state does not collect property tax and says local government should be held accountable.

She says plenty of federal and state funds have flowed to local government since the corona virus pandemic to give local government opportunity to cut levees as valuation rise. She says its okay to reach out to locally-elected officials with tax questions.

 Here is the senator's column:

Valuations and Local Control Did you get your new property tax valuations in the last week or so? Me too. Let’s talk about it in this week’s column.

There are two parts of your property tax bill: your property’s valuation and the levee at which your local taxing entities can set their tax rate. Your valuation is based on the market value of your home.

 The state requires residential property to be valued by the assessor at 92-100% of market value. Some argue that people purchasing homes or farmland above market value are artificially inflating the market, causing us all to pay higher taxes. There’s something to that, sure, but it’s far from the whole story.

Valuations aren’t the key part of this puzzle. As a conservative Republican, I generally demand the government stay out of the free market, especially when it comes to private property. If you are of the belief that property valuations are more of a reflection of the free market, then there’s one other place to turn to explain high property taxes: levees.

Nebraska prides itself on local control, especially when it comes to funding things like schools, cities, NRDs, etc. The state does not collect any property tax. Your property tax rates are set by local elected officials (like school board members, NRD reps, and city council members) under the belief that you can have more day-to-day contact with your local elected official to demand more transparency when it comes to where your tax dollars are being spent.

Yes, it’s an imperfect system riddled with state and federal unfunded mandates, but overall- it makes sense. Your neighbor, or you, for that matter, should probably know the needs of your community better than some guy pushing papers in Lincoln or D.C. However, the system only works if elected officials are held accountable.

For far too long, too many people have divorced their high taxes from where their dollars are going and the elected officials who decide those rates. Local control only benefits the community and the taxpayers if the local elected officials are responsive to the concerns of taxpayers.

Pointing vaguely in the direction of Lincoln and shouting, “It’s the state’s fault!’ does not cut it when your local elected officials are the ones making the call on your tax rates. It rings especially hollow when you consider the billions in federal and state tax dollars poured into covering extra COVID costs for local entities and, on the state side, to fund local entities so they cut property taxes.

 If your property valuation went up this year and your local taxing entities did not proportionately drop their levee to cover the increase, they raised your property taxes. It’s okay to reach out to your local elected officials and ask, “Why?” It’s their job to work for you! Perhaps they have a good reason. Maybe they don’t. That’s up to you, as a voter, to decide.

The system of local control only works when there is accountability. As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: [email protected].