Fire district levy authority advanced

A bill advanced from general file May 12 would authorize rural and suburban fire districts to levy property taxes.

Currently, counties decide whether to allocate property tax funds to fire districts. LB325, introduced by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, would give separate property tax levy authority to districts that meet certain requirements.

Davis said at least eight counties have denied property tax funding to fire districts, which compromises safety.

“Fire protection is a vital service, especially in rural Nebraska,” he said. “This would ensure that fire protection districts can access levy authority to fund emergency services when not granted funding by the county.”

LB325 would provide for a maximum levy of 10.5 cents per 100 dollars of taxable valuation located within the fire district.

A fire district would be eligible for levy authority only if it is located within a county that had a levy of at least 40 cents in the previous year or did not authorize any levy authority to the district in the previous year.

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman supported the bill, saying that levy authority is essential to public safety.

“Without this, firemen and EMTs would have to go out and raise their own money to make sure equipment is purchased and training is paid for because that’s what happens many times when districts don’t have levy authority,” Kolterman said.

Calling it another property tax increase, Hoskins Sen. Dave Bloomfield opposed the bill.

“We’ve spent all year talking about property taxes, but we want to give more people the opportunity to add on to them,” he said. “This is a decision that should be made by the counties. If they don’t feel it necessary to fund their volunteer fire departments, it’s not up to the state to take away that decision from them.”

Senators advanced the bill to select file on a 32-1 vote.

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