Published On: Wed, Feb 1st, 2012

State, counties to battle over inheritance taxes

HARTINGTON — Cedar County could end up losing an estimated $300,000 in tax revenue if the Nebraska legislature passes LB970 – a bill which would eliminate the inheritance tax received by counties.
Commissioners discussed the ramifications if LB970 should pass during the Commission meeting Jan. 24.
Commissioner Dave McGregor was concerned with the bill.
“The county keeps getting mandates that are not funded – and now this would mean less money,” McGregor said. “The inheritance funds have been kind of a cash reserve for the county.”

In past years, the funds have been used for emergency equipment and expenses incurred during severe winters, McGregor said.
Inheritance funds are currently being used for buildings and grounds, according to Cedar County Clerk Dave Dowling.
Recent use of the county’s inheritance funds included the geo-thermal heating and cooling system for the Courthouse along with the Courthouse addition, which was completed in 2009.
Cedar County received the following amounts from inheritance funds during the last three fiscal years:
2010-11: $297,288 from 47 estates
2009-10: $276,496 from 45 estates
2008-09: $316,243 from 43 estates.

Knox County Supervisors forwarded an email to the Revenue Committee which met Jan. 26 stating their opposition to LB970.
“When you rob from the inheritance tax – it goes directly on the backs of the local tax payers,” board member Jim Fuchtman said.
According to Knox County Clerk Joann Fischer, the county has collected the following amounts from inheritance tax over the last three fiscal years:
2008-09: collected $420,996 from 45 estates
2009-10: collected $275,698 from 25 estates
2010-11: collected $744,288 from 44 estates.

“The money has not been used frivolously – it was used to save the taxpayers money,” Fischer said. “If Knox County does not have these funds – many county programs will be discontinued.”
Knox County used inheritance funds for contributions and donations that were given to six public libraries in the county, the new nursing school at Northeast Community College and the Yankton County, S.D., Search and Rescue squad, which has provided assistance to Knox County.
Funds have also been used to pay fees for court appointed attorneys and public defenders, along with road improvements, repairs on a bridge after a flood and to purchase beetles to help control Purple Loosestrife – a noxious weed.
The Knox County Courthouse was made handicap accessible,  a foyer was constructed and a building that is being used for storage was also purchased with these funds.
Knox County Board members are also currently looking at installing an elevator at the Courthouse by using inheritance funds according to Fischer.