HASTINGS, Neb. — A panel of Nebraska lawmakers heard both praise for the state school aid formula and calls to scrap it at a public hearing Wednesday.
About 30 school officials and taxpayers, along with an equal number of lobbyists, showed up for the first of a series of hearings planned by the Legislature's Education Committee.
The hearings are intended to gather ideas about potential changes in the school aid formula, including changes in the types of tax revenue used to pay for K-12 education in Nebraska.
State Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids, the committee chairwoman, said she was happy with the testimony.
“We heard from educators. We heard differences of opinion. We heard from a few taxpayers,” she said, adding: “It doesn't make our job any easier.”
Two farmers who spoke called for new sources of revenue to ease the burden of property taxes on agricultural producers.
John Dondlinger of Shickley said the current school funding system relies too heavily on property taxes and doesn't take taxpayers' ability to pay into account.
But Jeff Schneider, director of finance for the Hastings Public Schools, raised concerns about the stability of funding if the formula were revamped to include local option sales and income taxes.
He said the current formula has worked to make property tax levies and educational funding more equal across the state.
Nebraska's state school aid formula aims to fill the gap between what schools need to educate students and what they can collect from property taxes and other resources.
State school aid, at nearly $1 billion this year, is the largest single item in the state budget. Money for aid comes largely from state sales and income taxes.