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Nebraska guard James Palmer (0) charges into Penn State’s Rasir Bolton (13) for a first half foul on Thursday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. 

Lincoln-area homes will see average double-digit increase in values; revaluation notices in mail, online

The Lancaster County Assessor has reassessed home values a year early to keep up with the rapidly rising home prices.

The preliminary values, which will be used for property tax calculation in 2020, are now on the assessor’s website and postcards will be mailed this week to 100,000 home and ag land property owners.

These are preliminary values, the beginning of the reassessment process, and homeowners can schedule an informal hearing with assessor’s staff if they think their home value is not accurate or they want more information.

This is the value the county assessor believes is close to market value or what you could sell your house for. It’s also the value that will affect your local property taxes.

An increase in property value doesn't necessarily guarantee higher tax payments in 2020, since government entities like the city, county, school district, natural resources district, etc., establish the tax levies, but some increase is likely.

Many Lincoln homeowners will see double-digit increases in their values on the assessor’s records because of the rapidly rising home prices, said Rob Ogden, Lancaster County assessor.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City pointed to Nebraska's heated housing market in 2018, where home prices have increased at their fastest pace since 1994.

In Lincoln, home prices have risen at an average rate of 8.4 percent in the past four quarters, exceeding even the growth rates of the 1990s, said the June report.

The county traditionally reassesses housing values every three years, but the home prices are increasing too rapidly to wait that long, said Scott Gaines, chief deputy assessor.

“(The three-year reappraisal cycle) is dead,” said Ogden. “It appears to be a two-year cycle because of market conditions.” 

Though home values on average will see a double-digit increase, some individual homes will see a drop in value and some will remain the same, Ogden said.

State law requires values for tax purposes to be set at or near market value, and near is defined as no lower than 92 percent of market value.

If values drop below that 92 percent, the state can require counties to raise values, explained Gaines.

When the market was creeping up, at 2 percent to 3 percent a year, the assessor’s office could wait a couple of years between reassessments and still have the values on the tax records at 92 percent of market value.

With housing prices heating up, that longer cycle is no longer possible.

“We are required to do what the market is doing,” Ogden said.

He suggests homeowners look at the value set by the assessor and say, "Can I sell my property for that?"

If they don’t think that is the market value, they can schedule an informal hearing with the assessor’s staff, where staff can get correct information and consider changing the value, Ogden said.

While home values are rising, dry and irrigated ag land values are dropping. That change will be reflected in new values for ag land in the county, Ogden said.

Where your tax dollars go

What's coming from your wallet in the Lincoln area: See the breakdown here

At the border, Trump moves closer to emergency declaration

MCALLEN, Texas — Taking the shutdown fight to the Mexican border, President Donald Trump edged closer Thursday to declaring a national emergency in an extraordinary end run around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall. Pressure was mounting to find an escape hatch from the three-week impasse that has closed parts of the government, cutting scattered services and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay.

Trump, visiting McAllen, Texas, and the Rio Grande to highlight what he says is a crisis of drugs and crime, said that "if for any reason we don't get this going" — an agreement with House Democrats who have refused to approve the $5.7 billion he demands for the wall — "I will declare a national emergency."

About 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, were to miss their first paycheck today under the stoppage, and Washington was close to setting a dubious record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. Those markers — along with growing effects to national parks, food inspections and the economy overall — left some Republicans on Capitol Hill increasingly uncomfortable with Trump's demands.

Asked about the plight of those going without pay, the president shifted the focus, saying he felt badly "for people that have family members that have been killed" by criminals who came over the border.

Trump was consulting with White House attorneys and allies about using presidential emergency powers to take unilateral action to construct the wall over the objections of Congress. He claimed his lawyers told him the action would withstand legal scrutiny "100 percent." But such a move to bypass Congress' constitutional control of the nation's purse strings would spark certain legal challenges and bipartisan cries of executive overreach.

A congressional official said the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to look for billions of dollars earmarked last year for disaster response for Puerto Rico and other areas that could be diverted to a border wall as part of the emergency declaration. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

"We're either going to have a win, make a compromise — because I think a compromise is a win for everybody — or I will declare a national emergency," Trump said before departing the White House for his politically flavored visit to the border. He wore his campaign-slogan "Make America Great Again" cap throughout.

It was not clear what a compromise might entail, and there were no indications that one was in the offing. Trump says he won't reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable barrier that Trump envisions.

No negotiations were taking place at the Capitol.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at one point that he didn't "see a path in Congress" to end the shutdown, then stated later that enough was enough: "It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier."

Visiting a border patrol station in McAllen, Trump viewed tables piled with weapons and narcotics. Like nearly all drugs trafficked across the border, they were intercepted by agents at official ports of entry, he was told, and not in the remote areas where he wants to extend tall barriers.

Still, he declared, "A wall works. … Nothing like a wall."

He argued that the U.S. can't solve the problem without a "very substantial barrier" along the border, but offered exaggerations about the effectiveness of border walls and current apprehensions of those crossing illegally.

Sitting among border patrol officers, state and local officials and military representatives, Trump insisted he was "winning" the shutdown fight and criticized Democrats for asserting he was manufacturing a sense of crisis in order to declare an emergency. "What is manufactured is the use of the word 'manufactured,'" Trump said.

As he arrived in Texas, several hundred protesters near the airport in McAllen chanted and waved signs opposing a wall. Across the street, a smaller group chanted back: "Build that wall!"

In Washington, federal workers denounced Trump at a rally with congressional Democrats, demanding he reopen the government so they can get back to work.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the president of engaging in political games to fire up his most loyal supporters, suggesting that a heated meeting Wednesday with legislators at the White House had been "a setup" so that Trump could walk out of it.

The partial shutdown would set a record early Saturday, stretching beyond the 21-day closure that ended on Jan 6, 1996, during President Bill Clinton's administration.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell warned on Thursday that an extended partial government shutdown could damage the U.S. economy and starve the central bank of key data it needs to make monetary policy decisions.

"If we have an extended shutdown, I do think that would show up in the data pretty clearly," Powell said during an appearance at the Economic Club of Washington.


President Donald Trump tours the U.S. border with Mexico on Thursday in McAllen, Texas.

Lincoln senator offers red flag law to take guns from people at extreme risk

It's known around the country as the red flag law, and it's been considered by 29 states and adopted by 13 of them. 

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld introduced a similar bill Thursday in Nebraska, this one called the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, to enable law enforcement to remove firearms from a person at high risk of harming themselves or others. 

Morfeld said that in drafting the bill, he worked with law enforcement and students who planned and participated in the March for Our Lives rally in 2018. 

Capt. Kevin Griger of the Sarpy County Sheriffs Office said in a news release the protection order would be critical to removing weapons from people during a mental health crisis. Law enforcement and the courts could keep communities safer while protecting due process rights of those gun owners. 

A court process would ensure the protection order is used only in extreme cases with proof the person is a danger and has access to firearms.  

"As a gun owner and an attorney this is a critical component for me," Morfeld said. "Law enforcement, students and my constituents have made clear the need to have safeguards to ensure that those found to be suffering from severe mental illnesses and individuals who pose an immediate threat do not have access to firearms after an emergency court hearing.”

A petition for an extreme risk protection order must allege the person poses a significant risk of causing injury and has a firearm. It must be accompanied by an affidavit made under oath with statements, actions or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by the person.

It also must identify firearms the person is believed to have and what other protection orders have been issued, if known.

Lincoln student Isabel Bousson said in a statement that school shootings have been around her whole life.

"… This legislation could make an immediate impact in our community, which would mean generations to come wouldn't have to worry about the threat of mass shootings, first and foremost in their schools, but also in their communities," Bousson said. 

Lincoln High School student Bouthaina Ebrihim said the law could "dim the culture of school shootings and ignorance to gun violence in America."

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association said the NRA supports risk protection orders that respect due process of rights and provide care for those found mentally ill, but most passed last year do not.

“Not only do they fail to provide any sort of mental health treatment but they allow the state to deny law-abiding gun owners their due process of rights. If the state can deny due process to these law-abiding residents then what’s to stop them from denying any right to any group of people?" said Catherine Mortensen with the NRA.