Iowa’s First Year of ESAs and Where They Are Going

Over 18,500 students in 96 counties have been approved and are taking advantage of Iowa’s “Student First” ESA program. Iowa’s lawmakers enacted the Students First Act in late-January 2023, creating universal education savings accounts (ESAs) for Iowa students. Funded with the state’s share of per pupil spending, which is currently $7,635, the ESAs will soon be available to every student […]

Back to School Shopping Should Not Be a Holiday

Sales tax holidays create complexities for tax code compliance, do not promote economic growth or increase consumer purchases, and distract policy makers from truly beneficial tax reforms. School starts for most Iowa students on August 23rd, which means families have already received their back-to-school shopping lists. What better way to get ready for school than to shop during Iowa’s Sales […]

Local Government Property Tax Collection in Iowa

Local governments have a tax and spend mentality. For long-lasting property tax relief to occur, the state legislature must focus on reining in overall spending rather than reconfiguring how spending is done. Conversations about property taxes frequently focus on one of the major taxing bodies: cities, counties, or school districts. And rightfully so, as those three types of local governments […]

Iowa’s 2021 Migration Results

Analysis shows Iowa was following national trends in 2021. Public policy decisions have consequences, as is evident when viewing IRS data on the number of individuals who move and establish residency in new states each year.  While some states like California and Illinois are experiencing an oversized exodus, Iowa did not have a huge gain or loss from domestic migration […]

Tax Cuts Are Not the Problem

Instead of crying wolf every time a minimal amount is cut from their revenue growth, local governments should rein in their spending. The dust hasn’t even settled on a new property tax law that provides tax breaks to seniors and veterans and local governments are already crying wolf. An article published by Axios Des Moines claims the new property tax […]

Iowa Can Still Show D.C. What Fiscal Sanity Looks Like

Lawmakers at every level have control over how much the government spends. If our nation’s lawmakers need an example to emulate for good habits, though, Iowa can show them the playbook. During the most recent debt ceiling drama in our nation’s capital, modest spending reductions were exchanged for an increase in the federal government’s borrowing limit. While that compromise is […]

Iowa’s Local Bond-Election Reform Is a Model for Other States

The Hawkeye State is on a path of one limited-government-policy victory after another. This article was originally published by National Review. When it comes to politics, Iowa is recognized coast to coast for its first-in-the-nation caucuses during election season. When it comes to policy, Iowa has traditionally not been noticed at all. That began to change after the 2016 election brought Republicans unified […]

City Budget Reserves and the Impact on Taxpayers

Some cities may have collected more taxes than they needed and now they’re stockpiling your cash. Why the numbers matter During debate in the 2023 Iowa Legislature over a technical correction related to the taxable value of properties, the spotlight touched on the topic of reserve funds. The correction in question lowers the amount of taxable valuation cities and other local governments […]

Where are Iowa Cities Spending Property Taxes?

Iowa cities do important work, and that requires the collection of taxes. Problems surface, however, when cities with similar populations and services spend vastly different amounts of taxpayers’ money. Iowa’s 940 cities collect around 30% of all the property taxes we pay each year. Many of us are supportive of spending on law enforcement, emergency management, and roads. Where disagreement […]

Seniors: Don’t Miss Out On Your New Property Tax Relief

While the homestead exemption will reduce property taxes by exempting a certain amount of a home’s value from taxation, it will be short-lived if local governments are not given a spending limitation. Iowa lawmakers responded to constituent complaints of rising assessments and growing property tax bills with the most comprehensive property tax reform package in over 30 years. One specific […]

Voting With Your Feet and the Benefit Principle

 Local government officials should focus less on “keeping up with the Joneses” and more on the core services demanded by their constituents. Property taxes are arguably the most hated tax in Iowa, and rightfully so. The tax bill grows whether or not the homeowner has done anything to the property. Consequently, Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation’s latest poll found that […]

March Revenues Continue to Exceed Forecast

With three-quarters of the fiscal year behind us, the state is continuing to outperform last year. Iowa’s revenue report for March has been released and the data revealed net General Fund revenue for the month was $39 million (7.3%) above the March 2022 net revenue level. When broken down by the three largest sources (personal income tax, sales/use tax, and corporate income […]

Voter Turnout for Special Election Below November Levels

All bonded indebtedness, voted levies, and other revenue or spending questions that directly affect property taxes should be placed on November election ballots for the greatest possible participation of the electorate. On March 7, 2023, 22 taxing authorities spread across 35 Iowa counties held special elections that included bond questions totaling nearly $400 million in potential new spending. A majority of […]

How Is Your County Spending Property Taxes?

Iowa counties do important work. However, problems surface when counties with similar populations and services spend vastly different amounts of taxpayers’ money. Iowa’s 99 counties collect the third-largest portion of property taxes statewide, after cities and school districts — representing approximately 22 percent of the overall property tax burden. Counties have historically played a major role in the conduct of […]

How to Protest Your Property Assessment in Iowa

Taxpayers who believe their assessments are incorrect have a window between April 2 and April 30 to officially protest them. All real property in Iowa is assessed beginning in January of odd-numbered years. Residential, commercial, and indus­trial properties are assessed according to their market values, while agricultural property is assessed according to its productivity and net earning capacity. Iowans may […]

County Unassigned Fund Balance Transparency

Some counties may be holding on to more reserve funds than necessary. Why the numbers matter. During debate in the 2023 Iowa Legislature over a technical correction related to the taxable value of properties, the spotlight touched on the topic of reserve funds. The correction in question lowers the amount of taxable valuation counties and other local governments can draw from, and […]