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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Upset About Your Property Taxes?

This article was published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. A spending limit applied to local governments requiring them to earn a vote of the people to raise spending forces governments to be more accountable and to justify new spending. Taxpayers across the state are upset after receiving their property assessment notices in the mail. Property assessments in Iowa have increased, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 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 […]

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.

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 […]

Controlling Spending Key to Property Tax Reforms

This article was published in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Despite numerous changes, lasting relief has not been delivered and Iowa currently has the 10th-highest property tax burden in the nation. If you have lived in Iowa for any length of time, then you know property taxes are, without a doubt, the most despised tax in the state. That’s why numerous […]

Local Governments Should Budget Like a Citizen

Iowans and their state government know how to live within their means; it’s time local governments do the same.

If you are following the 2023 Iowa legislative session, then you know there is a lot of proposed legislation aimed at reforming and lowering the property tax. This is because local governments in Iowa have a spending problem. Since 2000, total property taxes collected have increased nearly 120%, well outpacing inflation. The increased spending has put a burden on taxpayers that cannot be ignored.

A Primer on Ending Fund Balances

Unassigned General Fund dollars beyond 15-30% of annual General Fund Expenditures might be  excessive. The concept of reserve funds and ending fund balances have been discussed by lawmakers and local officials alike in recent days at the Iowa Capitol and in the press.  It’s something we’ve had our eyes on for years here at Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation.  Following […]