State Sen. Charles Schneider wrote extensively about the property tax problem here in Iowa in his legislative newsletter last week. Rather than picking and choosing, we wanted to present the full piece.
Reducing the property tax burden on hardworking Iowans is one of my top priorities for this legislative session.
As a former West Des Moines City Council member, I understand the role property taxes play in funding local government services. They are the primary way local governments fund their operations. They support our schools, police officers, fire fighters, regional public transportation, and other important services.
However, for too many Iowans, particularly those on fixed incomes, property taxes pose a significant burden. Unlike income and sales taxes, which fluctuate based on one’s financial success or personal habits, there is virtually nothing homeowners can do to reduce their own property taxes. Like clockwork, property taxes must be paid every year at the rates set by local governments regardless of a homeowner’s financial situation.
To make matters worse, when a property’s assessed value increases, the property owner’s property tax bill goes up even if the levy remains the same. This means property taxes go up for many people in our community without anyone ever taking a vote.
For many people living on a fixed income, especially senior citizens, this is an incredible hardship. Some Iowans are effectively being taxed out of their homes.
In recent years, the Tax Foundation found that Iowa’s per capita property tax collections ranked 15th highest in the U.S. In addition, according to the Tax Foundation’s 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index, Iowa ranks 39th in property taxes. Both are signs Iowa must become more competitive.
Making us more competitive requires a holistic review of how property is taxed and assessed. We need to find a way to reduce property taxes while also respecting the diverse economic situations facing local governments. Dallas County continues to be one of the fastest growing counties in America. Waukee and West Des Moines are growing at astounding rates. These communities need the resources to develop their jurisdictions at a pace in line with their population growth.
I look forward to working with Gov. Reynolds, legislators from both parties, and community stakeholders to reduce the property tax burden on Iowans throughout the state. Together, I believe we can strike the right balance between lowering property taxes while also providing our communities with the resources they need to provide services to their residents
Constituent meetings are a regular occurrence this time of year.