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It isn’t easy to have a conversation about education without talking about money. What is fully-funded, and who pays for it? There are many opinions and definitions of fully-funded, but it is clear who pays for it: you and every other Iowa taxpayer!

Last month, we shared the change in population and property taxes collected for cities across Iowa.

This week, we will share some information about the change in property taxes collected compared with the change in students enrolled.

Here are four examples of what we found:

To see this data for Iowa’s 15 largest school districts, click here.

Each school district faces different challenges and we didn’t look into budget decisions of each school board, just the total property taxes levied. 

If you would like us to look up this information for your school district, email [email protected]

As a reminder, school boards, city council members, and county supervisors control your property tax bill. County assessors receive much of the blame, but they just provide one part of the formula.

Your property tax bill increases because of local government spending. Elected officials making budget and spending decisions should be able to justify why the school, city, or county needs more of your dollars than the person who earned it. 

When property taxes grow faster than household budgets, the taxes:

  • Force people on fixed incomes out of their homes
  • Make it harder for young families to afford their first home
  • Consume more and more income from renters and homeowners alike
  • Allow government bureaucrats to steal choices from taxpayers on how and where to spend their money

According to Iowa Department of Education data, the two largest sources of revenue for school districts are State Foundation Aid (from the state’s General Fund) and local property taxes (from your bank account). Each comprises 31 percent of school revenue statewide. 

School districts have many funding sources are most can only be spent on certain items. For example, the one-cent Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) sales tax can only pay for infrastructure expenditures. Those are costs related to the construction and repair of schoolhouse buildings, stadiums, gyms, and bus garages. SAVE dollars cannot pay for instruction expenses.

Creating school district budgets is a difficult process. But, school board members need to think of your household budget, not just how much money they want to spend. Enrollment, household income, and property tax increases should all be taken into consideration.