The Rozenboom Report – February 3rd, 2023

by Senator Ken Rozenboom

Because I had a new hip installed on January 25, I was unable to publish a newsletter last week. Today, I’ll try to get my constituents caught up with some of the major legislative news.

Funding for K-12 students is always one of the first things we address each year during the legislative session. Education is the largest part of the state budget, and it is an important piece not only to help determine the rest of our budget process, but also help schools set their budgets for the upcoming year. When determining the amount of additional funds K-12 schools will be given, we are focused on providing an amount to not only meet their needs but is also a sustainable part of the entire state budget.

Each year, Iowa spends billions of dollars on K-12 education. State funding alone amounts to $3.8 billion for K-12 education. Combined with local taxes, SAVE funds, federal funds, and other miscellaneous sources, Iowa will spend $8.4 billion on K-12 education for Iowa students next year. The money approved in Senate File 192 this week will dedicate an additional $107 million in state aid, another historic high. Total funding for K-12 education is $17,068 per student in Iowa, with $7,635 coming from the state general fund in SF 192.

Education is a priority for Senate Republicans, and it has been since 2017 when we took the majority in the Iowa Senate. Our K-12 education budget has consistently received increases in funding, totaling over $1.5 billion per year. While appropriate funding education has been a priority, giving parents choice and putting students first have also been a major focus. This is why over the last several years we have expanded open enrollment, dedicated money to transportation and per pupil equity, loosened regulations on schools, and, as of this year, gave parents more choice in their child’s education.

Senate File 192 continues our dedication to educating Iowa students, funding important priorities of Iowans, and responsible budgeting. With this bill moving forward in the legislative process, we hope to see this bill signed into law soon so we can continue working on other important issues this session and our local schools can start planning for the next school year.

An error at the Department of Revenue could have led to a property tax increase of as much as $120 million for Iowa homeowners. Senate File 181, passed by the Senate on Wednesday, fixes the error, protects the property taxpayer, and provides clarity for local governments in future years. This bill now advances to the Iowa House for their consideration.

The amount of property taxes levied on a homeowner is established by two things. First, the value of the property, defined by state law as its fair market value. That value is determined by the county assessor. Second, schools, cities, counties, community colleges, public transit authorities, hospital boards, and other entities set tax rates (levies) as a percentage of the value of the property.

Over the years the legislature has implemented taxpayer friendly policies to be phased-in to reduce the taxable portion of the value of a property. At the end of the phase-in period, some administrative clean up changes created an unintended glitch and could have increased home valuations. Senate File 181 fixes the glitch and provides certainty in future years. The consequence of the miscalculation could have been as much as $120 million in higher property taxes.

SF 181 extends the budget certification deadline for local governments to make the necessary budget adjustments, while still maintaining necessary and important transparency for taxpayers in the budget process.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published an informative quote from Democrat Senator Pam Jochum that nicely summarizes this situation: “One county auditor, Jochum said, told her the bill would lead that county to increase is (sic) tax rate 29 cents to maintain current tax dollars. If not, county revenue would drop by $1.1 million.” To clarify, the unnamed county intended to raise property taxes by $1.1 million and planned to hide behind higher property values. With SF 181, now they will have to raise the tax rate to collect the same amount of revenue and may be held accountable for it by their property taxpayers.

It is important to address one final issue about the cost of local government. During the Senate subcommittee meeting on this bill, lobbyist after lobbyist appeared before the committee arguing against the bill. Each one of these lobbyists was representing a city, county, group of local governments, librarians, or some other taxpayer-funded entity. Few things aggravate me more than local governments using taxpayer money to lobby the legislature to take more of your tax dollars.

The issues in this bill are complicated. Property tax policies have been developed layer after layer, year after year, decade after decade to govern how local governments levy taxes on property to pay for the services provided to their residents. Later this session Senate Republicans will introduce a plan to simplify the number of levies, improve the transparency of how homeowners are taxed on their property, and limit the cost and growth of local government.

Posted by on Feb 4 2023. Filed under Local News, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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