Miller recognized for 40 years with Twin Platte NRD

Kent Miller, manager of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District.

If its board members agree today, the Twin Platte Natural Resources District’s property tax rate will fall next year to its lowest level in a dozen years.

The North Platte-based NRD will hold public hearings and vote on a $20.06 million 2019-20 budget when it meets at 3 p.m. today at the USDA Conference Center, 1202 S. Cottonwood St.

If approved, the district’s total spending authority for all funds would be 15.8% higher than the $17.3 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

But it also would hold the NRD’s property tax request steady at just under $1.5 million, longtime General Manager Kent Miller said Wednesday.

That would mean a 1.72% decline in next year’s NRD tax rate — from 2.33 to 2.23 cents per $100 of taxable value — thanks to a 1.75% increase in the district’s total valuation for tax purposes.

The new tax rate would be the NRD’s lowest since 2007-08, when it charged 2.28 cents per $100. It’s also two-thirds below the 6.91 cents per $100 charged every year from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

Miller said the NRD’s tax rate has fallen steeply since then as it finished gathering the funds needed to buy “offset water” for the Platte River basin under the district’s 2004 Integrated Management Plan.

State law requires such plans and direct NRDs “to put water back in the river” if their service areas have been declared “overappropriated” in terms of water use, he said. Twin Platte covers parts of Arthur, Keith, Lincoln and McPherson counties.

Funds collected during Twin Platte’s five-year peak period of tax collections, he added, were set aside to buy water from irrigation districts and other water users who weren’t tapping all the irrigation water they were entitled to.

With the needed funds now on hand, “we’re now back down in our budget to normal operations,” Miller said.

Most of the $20 million-plus in next year’s NRD budget reflects the presence of those saved funds, he said. The district in 2018-19 spent only $3.5 million of the $17.3 million it had budgeted, according to NRD legal notices.

Though most of his NRD’s time and money goes to meeting its counties’ water obligations, Twin Platte still carries on its traditional tree-planting, grassland, conservation and education programs, Miller added. The 2019-20 fiscal year, Miller said, will be the first in which water from the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Program site will be pumped north into the Platte basin as well as south into the Republican basin.

Twin Platte is one of three NRD partners in the NCORPE project, which owns and taps water from a previously irrigated tract near Wallace.

Miller said Twin Platte now is entering the second stage of its Integrated Management Plan, which requires it to send 25,000 acre-feet a year into the Platte basin instead of the previous annual level of 7,000 acre-feet.

Under the plan’s first stage, “we had obtained enough (water) options that we didn’t need to pump any water north,” he said.

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