Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District Proposes Tax Levy to Fund Flood Control and Water Quality Projects

Papio Missouri River Natural Resources District Proposes Tax Levy to Fund Flood Control and Water Quality Projects


At its August 13th meeting, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District Board of Directors heard public comments and then voted to propose a fiscal year 2016 general operating budget that will require a slight increase in the NRD tax levy.

Final approval of the budget and the setting of a tax levy will be at the board's September 10th meeting.

"We've reduced and/or held our tax levy constant for nearly ten years," said NRD General Manager John Winkler. "There is so much work to be done to protect residents from potentially devastating flood events and, so little time to get the job accomplished," he said.

"We have a number of vital projects that need to be built for flood control throughout our six-county region while we continue to place emphasis on projects to protect water quality in our lakes and streams, construct extremely popular recreational trails and water-based recreation areas, and provide cost sharing to rural landowners to build soil and water conservation projects and wildlife enhancement," he said.

The proposed budget calls for a Fiscal Year 2016 property tax levy of .038034. The Fiscal Year 2015 levy was .032753. The NRD Board has not increased its tax levy for ten years. The new levy would mean that the owner of property valued at $100,000 would pay a total of $38.03 in property taxes next year to support NRD projects. Property owners paid $32.75 last fiscal year.

"The Papillion Creek Watershed is developing rapidly and many of the sites chosen for viable flood control reservoirs and water quality structures will soon be developed for housing if we fail to act now and secure the required acres," said Winkler. "We've been contacted by many landowners wanting to sell us the needed land, but we haven't had the resources to address the overwhelming need," he added.
The levy is based on an estimated 3.5 percent increase in valuations across the district. The Papio-Missouri River NRD area includes all of Sarpy, Douglas, Washington and Dakota Counties plus the eastern 60% of Burt and Thurston Counties.

The budget calls for an estimated $21.8 million in revenue from the NRD's property tax levy. Total spending is estimated at $68.6 million. Total NRD spending will decrease nearly $12 million under the proposed budget. Other revenue includes bonds and income from Improvement Project Areas. "One of the NRD's strengths is our ability to leverage federal and state cost sharing on projects such as the Western Sarpy/Clear Creek Levee on the Platte River and improvements to Missouri River levees south of Bellevue," said Winkler. "These federal and state cost sharing efforts save local taxpayers millions of dollars," he said. 

The NRD Board of Directors will hold a public hearing, approve a final budget and set the tax levy at its September 10th board meeting in Dakota City.

NRD Board Votes to Pursue Additional Bonding Authority

In a related matter, The Board voted to pursue additional bonding authority.

In 2009, the NE legislature gave the Papio-Missouri River NRD the authority to issue negotiable and refunding bonds known as "flood protection and water quality enhancement bonds". Subject to certain statutory limitations, these bonds may be used to pay costs of design, rights-of-way acquisition and construction of multipurpose projects and practices for storm water management, including flood control and water quality.

"Using these funds, we have been able to construct flood control projects such as Prairie Queen Recreation Area near Papillion, Dam Site 15A Reservoir now being built near 168th and Fort Streets, Western Sarpy/Clear Creek Levee for Platte River flood control, Kramper Reservoir at Danish Alps State Recreation Area in Dakota County, and Zorinsky Basin #1 to protect the water quality of Zorinsky Lake," said NRD General Manager John Winkler. "However, those funds have all been prudently allocated and many additional projects are critically needed to protect lives, property and public infrastructure," he said.

Per State Law the NRD may levy up to one cent on each one hundred dollars of taxable valuation within the District to retire bonded debt. A bond levy for flood control and water quality enhancement that exceeds one cent, however, requires approval by a majority of registered voters of the District.

The board's action at this meeting directed staff to pursue additional bonding authority through a bond issue election at or near the May, 2016 primary. Any new bonding must be included in the computation of the District's overall tax levy limit, and cannot raise the Districts statutory levy limit of 4.5 cents for property in the District.

"The NRD has no other direct source of funding other than its tax levy," said Winkler. "The District receives no sales tax, occupation tax, wheel tax, or state aid. Additional bonding authority is the best and most economical means to fund the creation of much-needed flood control and water quality projects that will save lives and reduce the potential for loss of property and critical infrastructure," he said.