YORK – Sen. Mark Kolterman is running for reelection as representative of District 24 at the Nebraska Legislature. He is being challenged by Stephanie Nantkes.

Both are residents of Seward County.

The York News-Times asked the candidates the same questions and their answers are being published exactly as they were submitted.

They are running in no particular order.

Mark A. Kolterman

Town of Residency: Seward

Current work status: State Senator, District #24

Q: Tell us about your background, your family, educational history, work history, involvement in your community:

A: I decided to seek the legislative seat in District #24 four years ago because of my interest in public service and my desire to continue serving my state. My reason for seeking re-election is for the same reason. I am an insurance professional and have served as president of Kolterman Agency, Inc., which I owned with my wife Suzanne until last year. I have spent the past 41-plus years helping businesses and individuals with their insurance and financial needs. A lifelong resident of Seward County, I have been long involved with my community and county, promoting Seward and Seward County through my involvement through Seward County economic development, the Chamber, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, Concordia University, Memorial Health Care Systems, and other groups and organizations around the Seward area. I served on the Seward Board of Education for 7 1/2 years and also served on the Southeast Nebraska Development District Board as an At-Large member and as a Diplomat through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. I was a volunteer firefighter for 14 years, and served as a Boy Scout Master for Troop #256. I have an associate’s degree in building construction from SCC, Milford and a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Peru State College. I am also a proud graduate of Seward High School, class of 1969. I have two grown children, Jessica Kolterman and Jennifer Stevens, and four grandchildren. My wife of 46 years, Suzanne (Geis) Kolterman passed away last November after an 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Q: Obviously, property taxes have been one of the main discussion points in the last year or so. What do you feel is a real, long-term solution to this situation? What can be done to provide property tax relief, but still maintain a strong public education system and generate enough revenue to fund state operations?

A: I believe we need to figure out the state aid formula and provide adequate funding to all school districts on an equal and proportionate basis. Once the state starts contributing more to individual school districts in the form of state aid or foundation aid, property taxes should come down and we would start to see some immediate relief to property taxes. We also need to take a close look at every tax exemption that is in place and determine if each one is justified given our current tax climate.

Q: Overcrowding in our prisons is an ongoing problem that is now reaching a point that has to be addressed. Do you feel more prison facilities need to be built? Do you feel more should be done to rehabilitate inmates so they don’t re-offend once they are released? Do you feel more could be down during the transitional periods (parole periods) to help inmates integrate back into society?

A: Corrections is a difficult part of our state government. There is no easy answer to the overcrowding situation. Currently we cannot afford a new prison, and as a state we have been working incrementally to add additional space to our current facilities. Since I have taken office, we have also been working with Nebraska’s drug courts to find ways to reduce sentencing for non-violent offenders. There are many options to consider prior to investing in additional infrastructure. I do support more rehabilitation programs and improving transitional periods to help inmates better integrate back into society. I continue to be very impressed by our correctional facility in York and appreciate the programs I have seen operating in that facility that focus on allowing the inmates to build skills and find ways to work through their challenges.

Q: In York and Seward Counties, particularly in the last six months, substantial amounts of illegal substances, ranging from cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and a variety of THC (marijuana) products have been seized during traffic stops. We have fantastic law enforcement officers who are making these seizures – but it also begs the question, if there are also just that much more illegal substances being trafficked through our area of the state, should there be additional state funds provided to the state patrol and funneled down to the county sheriff’s departments to assist in their battle against drug trafficking through our state?

A: It’s unfortunate to see this much drug trafficking, but there simply isn’t enough state money to expand funding for increased enforcement at the present time. I would like to see continued collaboration between our state, county, and city law enforcement, as I believe that model is working state-wide and will continue to work with increased communication and cooperation. I might also add that I think it’s important for Seward County to start up their drug interdiction program again soon. I realize it has been put on hold during election season – but I’d like to see it back online as soon as possible.

Q: What do you feel is the single, biggest concern facing the state of Nebraska at this time…and looming in the future?

A: Property tax relief and state funding for education.

Q: What do you think is your greatest strength, which would enable you to effectively represent District #24 at the state level?

A: I have a proven track record of working across party lines to pass common sense legislation that is good for Nebraskans.

Q: How do you feel about term limits when it comes to state leadership?

A: I think we need to have at least three (4-year) terms. It has become painfully obvious as I see colleagues retire every two years that we are losing a great deal of institutional knowledge. As we continue to lose legislative staff to retirements, we are also losing that knowledge, and I worry about the impact that will have on our state government.

Q: Many road projects have been put on hold throughout the state due to lack of funding. Some argue that the majority of the state’s road funds are being spent in urban areas, rather than for improvements in rural areas. Do you agree with that sentiment? What do you feel could be done to generate more funds for state road projects…if more revenue generation should even be pursued?

A: Although unpopular at the time, I supported an increase in the gas tax to pay for increased road construction. Additionally, because of that revenue, the next year, we were able to create an infrastructure bank to focus speeding up projects around our state. Additionally, Governor Ricketts has changed the processes and procedures at the Department of Transportation where the evaluation of projects and decision making considers economic impact and key corridors in our state. I have a great working relationship with the Director of the Department of Transportation, Kyle Schneweis, and we have spent a great deal of time discussing the importance of Hwy 81. I am also a strong supporter of 4 lanes 4 Nebraska and have worked with them on ways we can promote Hwy 81.

Q: What do you believe is the state’s greatest asset?

A: I have spent a great deal of time promoting our state to potential businesses and residents. The number one thing I talk about is the people of our state - their kindness, the way they take care of each other, and their strong work ethic. I would put our people next to any other place in the world, and don’t believe they could be matched.

Q: Is there any area of state spending that you feel is unnecessarily high and could be pared back?

A: Our Medicaid budget is extremely high. 53 percent of the people in our state’s nursing homes are paid for by the state of Nebraska. I would like to see more citizens plan better for their future in an effort to prevent this many people from going on our state’s Medicaid system.

Q: Why do you want to be in public service at the state level?

A: I have been very blessed by the citizens of District #24 in the way they have provided opportunities for me and my family to be successful in our educational, professional, and personal endeavors. I was not able to serve in the military because I have a severe case of asthma, and I always felt that I wanted to find a way to give back to the communities that had done so much for me and my family. This was an opportunity to do so – and I was incredibly honored to be elected to serve District #24 four years ago – and wish to continue my service.

Stephanie Nantkes

Town of residency: Seward

Current work status: Educator/retired

Tell us about your background, your family, educational history, work history, involvement in your community:

I am married to Dan, who has spent his life in the service of others, as a Seward County Deputy. Dan has much pride in serving our country in the Navy, and is a disabled veteran. Together we have two children, Danielle and Ross. Our children have two children each, giving us four grandchildren. We have enjoyed teaching our children the joy of fishing, camping, hunting and being outdoors.

My educational background is as follows:

1991 M.Ed., Master Degree from UNL with major in Special Education and Elementary Education

2004 M.Ed., Master Degree from Concordia University with a major in Administration

2006 Co-Hort, Math Assessment, UNL, Endorsement in Assessment Leadership

2008 Nebraska Writing Project, advanced classes in writing

2010 Co-Hort, Primarily Math, UNL, Endorsement in Math Leadership

My work history is as follows:

I have spent the last 34 years as a teacher in the Great State of Nebraska. In the past 34 years my experience has been:

1991-current. Lincoln Public Schools

Specialist: Computer Science

Elementary Education: 1st grade, Reading Recovery, and Lit. Support.

Special Education: B.D., Resource.

2013-2017: UNK online classes for Language Development

1984-1991: Bee Public School

Elementary Education: K-2 combined classroom

Involvement in your community:

During my work history, I have always been active in the NSEA, attending DA, RA, and Board member for Capital District; LEA, faculty representative and Senior rep. I have been on contact teams over the years, and am currently the Chair for Connie Duncan (LPS school board) and Sen. Mike Hitler’s teams.

In the Seward Community I have been a 4-H leader for many years, with the Circle G 4-H. A CCD teacher with both Wednesday night classes and summer school. I have been the PCCW President along with other duties. Girl Scouts and Girl Scout Cookie Chair, and coaching girls softball teams are areas of involvement. My husband and I donate to the bloodmobile every 8 weeks.

Q: Why are you running for this position?

A: Education/funding; property taxes; rural health care

When I saw a need for leadership in Seward, I ran and was elected to Seward School Board. I served six years on the board. I was asked to serve on the Government Relations Team which met and lobbied the Unicameral along with the Nebraska School Boards Association.

I again see a need for education in our state. We are rated in the top 10 nationally for academic achievement and in the bottom 10 for state funding. I am hearing and seeing the push for vouchers and private education, which will take money away from public education. I feel a need to step forward.

It is time to actually sit down and come up with a different way to think about taxes for education. Landowners are carrying the load of taxes used for education in this state.

TEEOSA, funding formula called for funding without adjusting the formula downward, which results in a shift from state income and sales taxes to LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES. It is time to see this formula for what it is, 178 out of the 244 school district do NOT currently receive state aid from the equalization formula. 7% of TEEOSA funding goes to schools with student enrollment of less than 2000 students, meaning Class B and below.

Q: Obviously, property taxes have been one of the main discussion points in the last year or so. What do you feel is a real, long-term solution to this situation? What can be done to provide property tax relief, but still maintain a strong public education system and generate enough revenue to fund state operations?

A: Property taxes are being collected at what appears to be a high level of tax. The money collected does not necessarily go straight to education as indicated in most visual drawings of the taxes. The state uses a formula to distribute the tax money for education. Rural areas vs. urban are not the same in amounts or given out due to the formula. Beside the state formula being used, if a taxpayer sends their child to a private school, the money for education does NOT go to the landowner’s public school district.

So I would first look at the formula and see how it can be overhauled to help the districts throughout the state in a more equal manner to districts. The formula at this time favors the urban districts in our state.

Second I would look at the disparity in how the state spends or gives out the money collected, since Nebraska sits 46th in the nation for pupil state support. Nebraska ranks 12th in property tax support for students, meaning Nebraska is taking in the money in (12th). One of the problems standing is the state giving out or back (46th) the money to education collected.

Nebraska collects/pays 37 percent from state, 8 percent from federal, with 54 percent from property taxes.

Q: Overcrowding in our prisons is an ongoing problem that is now reaching a point that has to be addressed. Do you feel more prison facilities need to be built? Do you feel more should be done to rehabilitate inmates so they don’t re-offend once they are released? Do you feel that more could be done during the transitional periods (parole periods) to help inmates reintegrate back into society?

A: This question has many parts to it:

What is the ratio of ethnic prisoners population vs. the state population? What is the educational level of the prisoners? What is the poverty level of the said population?

While a person is in prison, are we helping to change their situation, in either education or mental health?

Re-offending seems to be a choice since they don’t know how to be successful out of prison. How to make this change is both the prisoner and society working together. Educating the population would be a place to start, adding mental health lessons.

If we look at the sentencing for nonviolent offenders, we might be able to change the overcrowding situation.

Q: In York and Seward Counties, particularly in the last six months, substantial amounts of illegal substances, ranging from cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and a variety of THC (marijuana) products have been seized during traffic stops. We have fantastic law enforcement officers who are making these seizures – but it also begs the question if there are also just that much more illegal substances being trafficked through our area of the state. Should there be additional state funds provided to the state patrol and funneled down to county sheriff’s departments to assist in their battle against drug trafficking through our state?

A: The drugs seized are destroyed by the agencies, which helps with taking them off the streets. At times, the agencies also seize money/cash on the traffic stops. The money is then divided by the agencies involved in the stop. This money is then use to upgrade vehicles or equipment needed by the agencies. How the money is given out depends on the board in place to handle the disbursement of the funds.

Q: What do you feel is the single, biggest concern facing the state of Nebraska at this time . . . and looming in the future?

A: Property taxes and how the money is disbursed to the communities in the state. We have two different areas, taking money in at a high rate (12th in the nation) and giving the money out (ranking 46th in the nation). To add to this discussion, there are two very different types of communities, being the rural and urban settings. Each has their own needs with both giving property taxes, how the taxes are given back to the communities is different under the formula.

Rural lands make up 91 percent of the state’s total land area making Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilize 45.2 million acres. About ½ of the 45.2 million acres are grasslands or pastures, which tie into the livestock industry for the state.

Having said this, the rural property taxes fund the state’s education, while many of rural areas receive the least amount of money for education.

Q: What do you think your greatest strength is, which would enable you to effectively represent District 24 at the state legislature?

A: NANTKES: The strengths I bring to District # 24; the ability to learn quickly and retain what is learned. The ability to listen to the facts, then using the facts to work to a conclusion. The ability to look for and find ways to solve a given problem, while explaining the issues to others. The ability to find common ground.

NEBRASKA: I believe we have two areas of strength:

Education (ranked in the top 10 academically)

Agricultural/livestock, grains (Nebraska’s 10 leading commodities (in order of value) for 2016 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, hogs, dairy products, wheat, hay, chicken eggs, dry beans, and sorghum. quoted from: Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Q: How do you feel about term limits when it comes to state leadership?

A: I think the reason for term limits should first be asked. Since the unicameral took it to the people and the people voted it in...it stands. Two thirds are with experience while one third are new, the will of the people.

Voters need to look for people who are quick learners and problem solvers.

Q: Many road projects have been put on hold throughout the state due to a lack of funding. Some argue that the majority of the state’s road funds are being spent in urban areas, rather than for improvements in the rural areas. Do you agree with that sentiment? What do you feel could be done to generate more funds for state road projects . . . if more revenue generation should even be pursued?

A: Rural senators have not fought to have the rural roads be a top priority. The roads are the way in which the rural communities get their commodities to the marketplace, travel to do their work, and schools use to get students to the schools.

Q: What do you believe is the state’s greatest asset?

A: I believe there are three GREAT assets for this state; education and where our students stand nationally along with the Agricultural Industry which uses most of the land in our GREAT state. Plus the ability to enhance the technology, being taught to our students at every level, finding it in all walks of life. Students will be exploring and defining its use.

Q: Is there any area of state spending that you feel is unnecessarily high and could be pared back?

A: The two highest are education and Health and Human Services. Both are needed for this state, education along with health care in the rural communities.

Q: Why do you want to be in public service at the state level?

A: State funding for the rural vs. the urban communities in education

Real property tax relief

Protect rural health care

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