For decades, local governments have been on autopilot, taking advantage of high assessment windfalls and continuing to increase spending. That has led to our current property tax problem.
The Rest of the Story
Smoke and mirrors. Playing games. Scare tactics.
Too many local elected officials say the sky is falling as they attempt to justify taking more money from Iowans. Over the last few weeks, that is exactly what happened when state lawmakers corrected an error in how the residential assessment rollback is calculated.
The correction resulted in cities and counties getting a smaller than anticipated windfall of property tax revenue. Even with passage of the bill, cities and counties still get to take more of your money next year without raising their rates. But that didn’t stop them from making all sorts of claims about the impact of not being able to raise property taxes as much as they first planned.
This week on our podcast, ITR Live, we dug into how some cities adjusted their budgets.
Naturally, we agree with everything said on the podcast, and if it were a picture, it would proudly be hanging on the office refrigerator. Hopefully, you will find it as entertaining and informative as we do.
If you haven’t listened, click on the button below to learn about local government scare tactics. It’s only 26 minutes.
Several local governments and legislators claimed this technical fix would cause all sorts of budget cuts, including police and fire protection. Several communities even sent first responders to the Capitol to hammer home their point.
Now we know the rest of the story.
Kudos to the Des Moines Register (yes, really) for digging into the aftermath of this legislation and asking local governments about their actual plans going forward. It will come as no surprise that none of the cities surveyed said they would cut police and fire protection for their communities.
How did they adjust their budgets?
- Altoona – Will not raise levy rates, but will either make cuts or transfer money from their reserve fund.
- Ames – Increase their levy rate by $0.13 per thousand.
- Ankeny – Will not raise levy rates and cut several unfilled positions.
- Des Moines – Will not raise levy rates. Are “looking at everything.”
- Grimes – Will transfer money from another fund.
- Johnston – Will raise levy rates by $0.30 per thousand to meet spending desires.
- Urbandale – Will eliminate unfilled positions.
Wants vs. Needs
Not a single city decided to cut police and fire protection. It took a bill like this to call their bluff about what is really needed in local government budgets.
- Why are these budget decisions not their first response?
- Why is elected officials’ first response to take as much as they can from the taxpayer?
Because too many local governments don’t want to make difficult spending decisions like Iowa’s state government has made in recent years.
For decades, local governments have been on autopilot and taking advantage of high assessment windfalls and continuing to increase spending.
That has led to our current property tax problem.