A Look Into the Finances of Iowa’s Community Colleges

Federal, state, and local funding helps subsidize community college tuition costs. As an agricultural state, Iowa has historically had a lot of ground to cover establishing institutions of higher learning. In 1950, only one-third of Iowans aged 25 and over had high school diplomas or more education. The most-recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau raises that figure to 93% of all Iowans.   […]

Iowa’s K–12 School Debt Hits New Levels

Iowa public schools’ outstanding debt has reached $5.2 billion, equivalent to 63% of the state’s annual budget. Schools levy more property taxes than any other category of local government in Iowa. And while a large portion of their funding is driven by the school finance formula, the debt they carry is a direct reflection of local decision-making; paying off that […]

Why So Much School Debt Is Not Voter Approved

Revenue bonds do not require voter approval, and they made up 44% of total outstanding K–12 debt in 2023. Iowans are familiar with the bond votes that occur every year for local government, especially those for local school districts wanting to build new facilities or renovate existing ones. Thankfully, the Constitution of the State of Iowa places a limit on […]

Property Tax Reforms Remain Unfinished Business

The last major piece of legislation for 2024 included a technical correction to last year’s property tax law that comes with a lesson. The Iowa Legislature has recently been trying to perfect a construct that is flawed at its core: property taxes. Iowans have one of the highest property tax burdens in the country, ranking the 10th highest among states.  While […]

New Budget and Tax Notices Will Provide Needed Transparency for Taxpayers

This article was published in the Des Moines Register, Telegraph Herald and The Gazette. Property taxes have been on autopilot for too long. Injecting more transparency into local government budgeting will benefit taxpayers. Property taxes are a top concern for many Iowans. The growing frustration over high property taxes surpasses political party identification and the urban-rural divide. As part of […]

March 5th Special Election: Property Tax Increases Take Center Stage on Ballots

More than a dozen school districts and one county are seeking property tax hikes on top of assessments that are already elevated. The March 5, 2024, special election in 13 school districts and one county will put property tax increase questions before voters. The school districts are looking for increases in their physical plant and equipment levies (PPELs), which generate […]

What Is a Revenue Purpose Statement?

Voters should pay close attention to why a district wants a Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) and what it intends to do with the proceeds. Details A Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) is a ballot measure describing how a school district will spend sales tax funds the State of Iowa has dedicated to public schools through a program called Secure an Advanced Vision for Education […]

Your Dollars, Not Their Rates

It’s the dollars those governments are pulling from you each year that matter. When it comes to property taxes, don’t get fooled by smoke and mirrors.  A citizen should focus on how many dollars local governments are taking from them.  That’s it.  Don’t take the bait that some officials will dangle in front of you in the form of property […]

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 […]

Session Preview: Property Taxes

Iowa still ranks in the “Bottom 10” nationally when comparing property taxes. The Tax Foundation recently released its annual 2024 State Business Tax Climate Index, which measures the tax competitiveness across the country. Iowa’s standing on the index has been improving every year, and thanks to continuing tax reforms, the 2024 results continued the trend. Last year, Iowa ranked 38th […]

Local Governments to Fund Basic Income Programs

This potential “solution” to economic inequality and poverty is nothing more than a wealth re-distribution tactic that places hard-working taxpayers in the crosshairs. The concept of “Guaranteed Income” or “Universal Basic Income” was introduced to many Iowans by Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign. Put forth as a potential solution to economic inequality and poverty, its proponents argue that providing a […]

Iowa’s Lesson from Colorado’s Proposition HH: New Spending Can Hide in “Tax Relief”

This past election was important for Iowa taxpayers. In addition to candidates for local government offices, Iowans voted on numerous bond proposals covering a variety of county, city, and school district projects. If all of the bond questions had passed, it would have meant $1.72 billion in new spending. During the election, only 22 of the questions achieved the required 60 percent majority for approval, representing an estimated $951.9 million. These results suggest taxpayers are paying more attention to bond questions owing to Iowans’ mounting frustration with high property taxes and recent legislation designed to increase participation.

Local Elections Shape Our Communities

By electing responsible city council members and school board officials, and by carefully considering bond issues, we can have a significant impact on the quality and cost of our lives. Voting in local elections, which in Iowa this year includes city council, school board, and new bond issues, is of critical importance for every citizen. While national elections often steal […]

No More Blank Checks

Despite claims of inflation fears, the data shows city and county budgets have been outpacing inflation for years. An Axios Des Moines article about recent property tax reforms really caught our eye. In the article, a handful of city and county leaders in Iowa were lamenting new changes to Iowa law meant to rein in the growth of property taxes. One […]