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Straight Talk From Steve: N-CORPE - Nebraska Republican Platte Enhancement

One of the bills that I will introduce next year is the result of an interim study that I conducted with our State's Natural Resources Districts (NRD's) back in 2021. LR23 was a Legislative Resolution I introduced in 2021 to investigate some of the practices of our NRD's. While the interim study surveyed all 23 NRD's, one particular issue especially stood out for needed legislation. That issue involved land being held by N-CORPE.

Few Nebraskans have ever heard of N-CORPE. N-CORPE stands for the Nebraska Republican Platte Enhancement project. N-CORPE is an augmentation project which was created by way of an interlocal agreement by the Upper Republican NRD, the Middle Republican NRD, the Lower Republican NRD, and the Twin Platte NRD.

During a public hearing, which was part of the interim study, a concern arose over property taxes paid by N-CORPE. N-CORPE owns 19,000 acres of land. When asked if it would be fair to say that N-CORPE pays no property taxes on its land, Kyle Shepherd, N-CORPE's General Manager, said, "Yes." However, N-CORPE's 2019 annual report showed that they paid $145,000 in lieu of taxes. Lincoln County feels that some of the acres are not for public use. Therefore, N-CORPE pays property taxes on those acres of land.

Complicating matters even more is the fact that two-thirds of the land owned by N-CORPE is closed to public access. N-CORPE rents out these lands for farming and draws income from the rents. That income is use to pay N-CORPE's operational expenses.

N-CORPE's operations have been highly suspect for quite some time. For example, N-CORPE's annual reports for the years 2018 and 2019 consisted of only a single page.

Getting a copy of N-CORPE's budget has been another problem. N-CORPE has made it a habit of not making their budgets readily available to the public and they do not submit a budget to the State Auditor. They do not submit their budget to the State Auditor because of a loophole in the state law which says that they do not have to submit a budget to the State Auditor as long as they never impose a tax levy.

For these reasons, I believe the best course of action is for N-CORPE to sell its land. Once N-CORPE sells its land, the land will go back on the tax rolls. By selling the land, it will put it back on the tax rolls and result in property tax relief for the residents of Lincoln County. Having the land farmed as dryland will also be an economic advantage for the local economy.

Nebraska's governmental entities have made it a bad habit of taking more and more lands off the tax rolls. Whenever that happens, other landowners have to make up the difference, and that is hardly fair to those property owners who have to make up the difference. The time has come to reverse this trend, and I believe that process should begin with N-CORPE leading the way by selling its land.


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