Current Beatrice City Council member Rick Clabaugh has filed to run again for the position to represent Beatrice’s Ward 2.
Clabaugh, who has owned and operated Clabaugh Pharmacy since 1980, said that he’s been honored to serve these past four years since he was elected to the city council in 2014.
The council has made some big changes during his term, he said, like upgrades to the landfill and tackling economic development issues, but there’s still work to be done.
“One of the bigger things coming up is going to be whether we do a new fire station or refurbish what we have,” Clabaugh said. “That would probably be the most immediate decision.”
Clabuagh said he’s been impressed with the city’s department heads, saying they’re doing a fantastic job that everyone in the city of Beatrice can be proud of. More than anything, he said, keeping everyone moving in the right direction and staying on track has helped to improve city infrastructure and to clean up the town.
Clabaugh said that the city’s recent downtown revitalization grants have started giving the city a whole new look and bringing downtown back to its former glory.
“You see an older building that's really being refurbished and everybody wondering what's going to go in there,” he said. “Seeing a building that's coming to life, I think it gives everybody a good feeling that things are happening.”
Though he can't foresee the long-term impact of every decision made by the city council, he said it all comes down to making the best decisions you can will all the information you have.
“Everybody seems to be rowing the boat in the same direction now,” he said. “There seems to be a lot more community pride than we might have had a few years ago. It seems to really be catching on right now.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was in Beatrice on Thursday to talk with the Rotary Club about the current legislative session.
Before the lunchtime meeting at Valentino’s in Beatrice, Ricketts stopped into the Daily Sun offices to discuss a few key issues facing the unicameral.
“The big things in this legislative session are going to be budget and taxes,” Ricketts said. “And they're really two sides of the same coin.”
The state has to have a balanced budget, he said, and with farm incomes declining and state revenues lagging behind the forecast, the state has to close a $200 million gap in the budget this year.
Ricketts said he made recommendations to the legislature on how to do that, which would involve a 2 percent across-the-board cut this year and a 4 percent across-the-board cut for next year.
With those cuts, he said, some things would need to be prioritized. For example, he said, K through 12 education would be exempted from those cuts, while corrections and aid for those with developmental disabilities would also be priorities.
“If we do that,” he said, “if the Legislature accepts my recommendations, then our budget will grow at 0.2 percent, which is essentially flat, compared to the 6.5 percent it was growing when I took over.”
The next thing he said the state should focus on is LB947, the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunity Act. LB947 would lower the income tax rate from 6.84 percent to 6.75 percent in 2019 and to 6.69 percent in 2020. It would lower the current corporate income tax rate to 6.69 percent over two years.
The bill also restructures the current property tax into two programs, he said, one for agriculture and one for homeowners, which would be based on state taxes. If passed, it would start with a 12 percent refundable tax credit, he said, based upon property taxes paid, and it would be capped at 30 percent with a 2 percent increase each year leading up to that.
Based on the average Nebraska home price of $150,000, Ricketts said, the credit from LB947 is limited to $230 the first year and would increase by about $50 per year.
For agricultural land, there’s no dollar limit for the credit and would follow the same trend as the 30 percent cap for homeowners.
“By doing that, we can focus those dollars on Nebraskans,” Ricketts said. “Right now, anyone that owns property, even those big out of state landowners, gets our property tax credit relief fund. What this would do would be a refundable tax credit based upon the property tax credits you pay and is only eligible for Nebraska residents.”
It’s a work in progress he said, and would provide about $4 billion in property tax relief over the next 10 years.
The workforce development side of the bill is still being worked on, he said, but the legislation would provide $10 million for workforce development programs. Those could include funding things like job training and the Internship Nebraska program.
Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska are facing a dire situation, Ricketts said, and LB947 is aimed at keeping agriculture the largest industry in the state. Ricketts said some farmers are paying two to four times more property taxes per acre than their counterparts in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or South Dakota.
Ricketts said that Nebraska farm incomes are expected to go down another 7 percent this year. While it might not be enough to immediately turn things around for Nebraska farmers, it’s what can be structured and managed within the budget.
“We can't have our farmers leaving our state and going to other states,” he said. “We need to make sure we're competitive here so that we can continue to have a strong ag economy.”
The first incumbent candidate has filed for another term on the Beatrice Public Schools Board of Education.
Doris Martin was a journalism teacher at BHS for 32 years and raised two sons who graduated from Beatrice. The former educator is seeking a third term on the School Board.
“Most importantly, I believe firmly in public education and Beatrice Public Schools,” she said. “I have a real fondness for the school in Beatrice and I think that I’ve made a contribution my past two terms, and I hope can continue to make contributions by bringing a unique perspective to the board. Since I’m a former teacher, I always try to see things from a student’s point of view and what impact we have on kids in the classroom.”
Martin currently works for Beatrice Educational Foundation. She serves as the program director for the after school program, and said there has not been a conflict while serving on the School Board.
If re-elected, she said continuing to evaluate how to best use Beatrice’s school facilities would be a priority, one aided by an ongoing comprehensive facility study that’s examining, in part, how to best use the elementary school buildings. She supported building a central elementary school, but said it’s time to move on and look to other options after voters twice denied bond issues for the building.
“The voters were clearly not in favor of that, so I think we need to move forward,” Martin said. “We’re doing a facility study and asking for input from the public as to how they would like us to move forward. One of the big issues when you have three elementary sites is to maintain equal class distribution. I’m a big proponent of small class sizes. That becomes difficult when you’re spread over three locations.
“We do have older buildings and they do need some upkeep and maintenance. We need to find out how to best use them in the classrooms of today. Today, it looks really different. When buildings were constructed in 1950s, how can we best serve kids in current buildings?”
The School Board currently has six members, though beginning in 2019, a seventh will be added, in part to prevent tie votes. The School Board reduced its number of members from nine to six about two years ago. Three current board members are up for re-election, and with a seventh seat being added, there will be four spots up for grabs in the 2018 election.
In addition to Martin, board members Nancy Sedlacek and Jon Zimmerman are up for re-election.
Nonincumbent candidates who have filed for School Board include Monte Lofing, Eugene Fiester and Eric Book.
The election system for the School Board is structured so the top four vote getters will be elected, since there are no wards and anyone residing in the BPS district can run.
If the number of candidates is more than double the number of open seats, the election will be featured on the May 15 primary ballot.
Therefore, if nine or more candidates file for the four open seats, the race will be included on the spring ballot and the top eight vote getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election, where the four candidates with the most votes will be elected.
If eight or fewer candidates file for School Board seats, they will all automatically advance to the fall ballot.
Authorities have identified a man from Diller who was killed in a traffic crash on Wednesday.
The crash occurred east of Odell late Wednesday morning at the intersection of Highway 112 and Highway 8.
Once on scene, deputies observed two vehicles, a pickup truck and a semi-tractor trailer, approximately 300 yards north of the Nebraska Highways 8 and 112 intersection. The driver of the pickup truck had been ejected and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The driver of the semi reported no injuries.
According to a press release from the sheriff’s office, a pickup driven by John Scheuler, 66, of Diller, was traveling north on Nebraska Highway 112 when he lost control on the snow-packed road, crossing into the southbound lane in front of a southbound semi, driven by Robert Brackett, 39, of Omaha.
Scheuler was ejected from the pickup and Brackett was uninjured.
The front of Brackett’s semi collided with the passenger side of Scheuler’s pickup. The semi came to rest in the southbound lane, while the pickup came to rest in the west ditch.
Scheuler’s restraints are not believed to be in use and no airbag deployed, according to the press release. Brackett’s lap and shoulder belts were in use, and no airbags available. Neither alcohol nor drugs are believed to have been a factor in the accident.
A StarCare helicopter medical transport was put on standby, but was called off after Scheuler was declared dead at the scene.