Property owners across the Omaha metro area have been receiving unwelcome postcards in the mail detailing how much more they can expect to pay in property taxes in the coming year. Postcards like these are mailed out annually, but while the rates may not have gone up, property valuations have skyrocketed, and so have the corresponding taxes each homeowner is expected to pay.
The reaction drew a large crowd to the subsequent hearing on the tax hike at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center on Thursday, filling the small second-floor theater to capacity despite extra chairs being brought in. The room was standing-room only with an overflow crowd spilling out into the hallway outside.
Petitioners for the EPIC Option, which would replace all property, income, and commercial taxes with a flat sales tax, took advantage of the crowd of angry taxpayers and stood outside the north entrance gathering signatures before and after the hearing.
Before public comment was allowed, attendees had to wait through five separate presentations from Mayor Stothert and representatives from Metro Community College, Ralston Public Schools, Bennington Public Schools, and Omaha Public Schools.
An Elkhorn man spoke and said that the valuation on his home had gone up 40% in the past year. A 67-year-old woman on Girard Street said that the property taxes she was paying were now twice as much as her mortgage payment. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Every time I turn around, my taxes go up.”
This was the story for dozens of Omaha taxpayers who spoke up, citing property valuations going from $122,000 to $159,000 in one year for one man, far more for others. One man hadn’t received a raise since 2019, but he was expected to continue paying more in taxes every year.
I spoke with a few attendees before the hearing started, including one presentative from one of the school boards present. He’d just bought a home himself that had doubled in tax-assessed valuation over the past year, but he sounded very doubtful that any of the public comments would have any effect on the proposed tax increases.