Still no refund on illegal NRD property taxes

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don't look for any tax refunds from the Natural Resources Districts any time soon.

The Legislature, so far, has failed to pass a law that allows the NRDs to return some $2.5 million in property taxes collected in 2007 under a law, later ruled unconstitutional, to raise money to buy water and take other steps to send enough water down the Republican River to fend off Kansas' lawyers.

District Judge David Urbom dismissed a case by the three Republican River NRDs to allow them to send the money back to the property owners.

The amount isn't huge for most of us, but it is significant for farmers and others with large amounts of farmland or other valuable property. So far, a companion tax on each acre of irrigated land has been upheld by the courts.

As it stands, the NRDs may just decrease the property tax levy to collect about $2.5 million less in taxes next year to effectively refund the ill-gotten income.

That's certainly not a perfect plan, and doesn't deal with the issue of refunds to taxpayers who protested the original property tax, nor other factors that would make the distribution unequal.

"If I had my druthers, I would order the plaintiff to refund the taxes collected to all taxpayers," Judge Urbom said in issuing his ruling. "However, I believe this court is without jurisdiction to make such an order and that any authority to refund the taxes collected under LB 701 will need to come from the Nebraska legislature."

We druther he had made a clear refund ruling as well.

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