Property Tax Rates Under Iowa’s New Notification Law

Transparency requires accurate data and enforcement mechanisms when local governments don’t follow the rules. Taxpayers across the state of Iowa received notices this spring that outlined proposals their local elected officials put forth for property taxes for the upcoming fiscal year. Many citizens expressed concern about the notices because they saw significant increases from the year before. Some city leaders […]

Des Moines Teaches a Lesson in Economic Development Failure

Elected officials and bureaucrats always have big “economic development” plans. However, these plans are ineffective and cost taxpayers dearly. The changing fortunes of downtown Des Moines, the people who live and work there, and the companies that call it home should teach us all a lesson on the limitations of local governments’ economic development efforts. In the real world, even […]

Council Bluffs Streetcar Needs to Slow Down

This article was published in The Daily Nonpareil. At a time when property valuations are increasing at double-digit rates and inflation is cutting into household budgets, Council Bluffs should be reducing its reliance on property taxes and making them more consistent, not introducing expenses and uncertainty. The $440 million Omaha streetcar project is in the first stages of construction across […]

The Troubling Proliferation of Universal Basic Income Programs

This article was published in Governing. Iowa policymakers did the right thing in prohibiting localities from creating UBI programs that would not only fail to resolve poverty but also create a fiscal nightmare for taxpayers. The idea of a universal basic income (UBI), whereby a government provides everyone with a certain monthly amount to spend as they wish, is nothing new. […]

Pro-Growth Policies and Conservative Reforms Stand Out in Session Recap

“The headline of this session is simple: Iowa’s income tax rate will be the 6th lowest in the country…” The Iowa legislature has adjourned, and this session has resulted in some important pro-growth policy victories that provide further tax relief to Iowans, while also making Iowa’s economy more competitive and government more efficient. As Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said, “The […]

Local Government Guaranteed Income Programs to be Banned

This legislation properly reminds Iowa cities and counties of their expected role, while protecting property taxpayers from funding a flawed poverty prevention program.  Taxpayers across Iowa were provided with another protection by the Iowa Legislature this week, as the House and Senate sent a bill to Governor Reynolds that bans local governments from participating in guaranteed income programs.   House File […]

County Tax Relief Is Not Deprivation

Counties are cashing in on hefty property taxes from high assessments, and reducing rates won’t halt financial gains. You might hear your county officials complaining they are facing dire straits this year because of the new property tax law. The truth is that too many counties have been cashing in on hefty property taxes from rapidly increasing assessments, and redirecting […]

Twenty-First Century Good Governance at the Local Level

Access to information has become a basic government service, making democracy work. Citizens need the ability to track what government does, and policymakers must produce and have access to historical records. While “good governance” is a broad and subjective term, reviewing the outcomes of public policy decisions can tell us whether it exists or not. At the local government level, […]

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 […]

Legislature Passes Property Tax Reform Measure

This legislation delivers more transparency and spending restraint for taxpayers. However, future property tax reform must be pursued and include strong budget or spending limits applied to entire local government budgets. A wide-ranging package of property tax reforms were approved inside the Iowa State Capitol this week, as a compromise bill (HF 718) passed both legislative chambers with overwhelming bipartisan […]

Iowans Feeling the Squeeze

The recent ITR Foundation poll shows Iowans are concerned about their own financial stability and the role inflation and government tax-and-spend policies have on their budget. Iowans are increasingly concerned about the economy, with high inflation and national economic uncertainty contributing to their anxiety. A recent poll conducted by ITR Foundation found that 74.4 percent of Iowans believe the nation is heading […]

Truth-in-Taxation Would Benefit Iowa Taxpayers

This article was published in the Iowa Capital Dispatch. Truth-in-Taxation forces local governments to be more transparent, holds local governments accountable, and provides an opportunity for citizens to have an honest conversation with their elected officials about property taxes. Frustration with high property taxes is reaching a boiling point, especially after taxpayers across Iowa are receiving their assessment notices. Taxpayers […]

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 […]

Property Taxes Rise as Cities Suffer From Mission Creep

It turns out that defining the proper role of local government, deciphering between wants and needs, and frustrated property taxpayers are not dynamics that are unique to Iowa.  Our friends at

The Cardinal Institute in West Virginia are working through those same issues in their state.  In a recent article, Cardinal’s Executive Director, Garrett Ballengee joined with Mark Moses, a former city finance administrator and local budget expert, to examine municipal finance and discuss the concept of mission creep.

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 […]

Nearly $400 Million in Bond Questions on March 7th Special Election

Iowa county bond information is not easy to acquire. State law should require county auditors to have this information on their website and also require the Secretary of State’s office to aggregate this information so news outlets and interested parties could more easily report on bonds and property tax increases being asked at special elections. On March 7, 2023, thirty-five Iowa […]