NRD tax asking down nearly $1.2 million

With the loss of a 3-cent levy authority that sunset last year, the tax asking for the Upper Republican Natural Resources District will decrease $1.19 million for the 2018-19 budget year. 

Board members approved the tax request during their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11 in Imperial. 

In 2006, the Nebraska Legislature authorized NRDs in fully and over-appropriated river basins to collect an additional 3-cent tax levy for water management activities. That levy authority expired after the 2017-18 budget year. 

The NRD still holds levy authority for up to 5.5 cents and they approved a tax asking up to that limit. 

Based on the valuation for the three-county district, the NRD approved a tax asking for $2,015,601 for next year’s budget operations. 

That compares to a tax asking of $3,206,750 last year. The occupation tax on irrigated land will remain at $10 per acre.

The URNRD board has used the extra levy authority to build up reserves with the intent of retiring additional irrigated acres in the district. 

In 2020, more than 9,000 idled irrigation acres in the Upper Republican Natural Resources District will come out of the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program retirement program. 

Potentially, irrigation pumping could resume on those acres. That would force the district to find additional ways to offset any resumed pumping. 

The district wants to provide enough financial incentive to entice landowners to permanently retire irrigation on those acres. 

Right now, the district has built up more than $8 million in reserves which will be used to match state and federal grant monies for retirement purposes.

Rock Creek taxes

In other action, the board met with Dundy County commissioners to discuss the ramifications of the passage of LB 758, a bill submitted by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango during last year’s legislative session. 

The bill allows NRDs to make in-lieu-of tax payments for land owned by the NRDs for stream flow augmentation projects, i.e. Rock Creek and NCORPE.

The URNRD had paid taxes to Dundy County on the Rock Creek project from 2011-2014. However, the state ruled that ground could not be taxed. 

Hughes’ bill remedied the problem with an in-lieu-of payment.

The URNRD said they would not seek a refund of those taxes already paid and will adopt a resolution treating those tax payments as in-lieu-of payments allowed under LB 758.

Nitrate monitoring

The NRD has been focusing on water quality in the district, and more especially nitrate concentration. 

The board will hold a hearing in November on a proposal that will require additional reporting in areas where the nitrate concentration matches or exceeds 10 parts per million, the allowable concentration by law. 

Several areas in the district show concentrations at or above those limits.

Testing of groundwater from irrigation and residential wells throughout the district has been used to identify target areas. 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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