Expanded SID authority advanced

Legislators gave first-round approval March 18 to a bill that would expand the authority of sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs).

When a property developer buys land for a housing development, an SID is created to install streets, sewers and power, as well as buy land for public parks. The SID is vested with taxing authority to finance these services.

LB324, introduced by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, would authorize SIDs to contract for solid waste collection services. McCollister said that the bill addresses an ambiguity in state statute with regard to SID authority.

“The current law does not clearly authorize an SID to enter into a contract for solid waste removal services,” he said. “[LB324] would make it possible to offer a neighborhood-wide solid waste removal plan and improve the quality of life for its residents.”

Under an Urban Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 30-2, any solid waste collection contract entered into by an SID would be cancelled upon the district’s annexation by a city or village. The amendment also incorporated provisions of two other bills: LB197 and LB420.

Originally introduced by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer, LB197 would provide additional powers to an SID when it is too close to a municipality to incorporate, yet too far away from a municipality to be annexed. These would have to be approved by the city council or village board within whose zoning jurisdiction the SID is located.

A qualifying SID would have the power to regulate:
• licensure of dogs and other animals;
• parking of abandoned vehicles;
• streets and sidewalks, including removal of obstructions and encroachments; and
• parking on public roads and rights of way relating to snow removal and access by emergency vehicles.

In order to qualify for the additional powers, an SID would have to be:
• located in a county with a population of less than 100,000 thousand people;
• located in a different county than the county of the municipality within whose zoning jurisdiction the SID is located;
• unable to incorporate due to its close proximity to a municipality; and
• unable to be annexed by a municipality with zoning jurisdiction because the SID is not adjacent or contiguous to such municipality.

LB420, originally introduced by Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford, would require a person purchasing a home located in an SID to acknowledge in writing their understanding that:
• the property is located within an SID;
• SIDs are located outside the corporate limits of any municipality;
• residents of SIDs are not eligible to vote in municipal elections; and
• owners of property located in an SID have limited access to services provided by nearby municipalities.

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy introduced an amendment to the committee amendment that would have prohibited SIDs from levying a tax to pay for contracted solid waste collection services. Instead, any person owning property in an SID that uses such contracted services would pay on an individual basis.

While SIDs have elected boards of directors, McCoy said, property owners would not have a say in taxes levied upon them.

“I want to make certain that those in an SID have the option to not participate in the taxes placed on them for solid waste services,” he said. “This is an issue that is very important to me and to the members of my district.”

McCollister opposed the amendment, saying that LB324 represents an agreement between the municipalities, SIDs and homeowners.

“When you choose to live inside an SID, you give a certain amount of taxing authority to the board of directors,” he said. “We’re simply adding one more item that the SID board could contract for.”

The McCoy amendment failed on a 14-20 vote. Senators then advanced the bill to select file on a 30-2 vote.

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