An important discussion at the capitol has the opportunity to unilaterally support Iowa public schools without costing the state any additional money.
You might have heard about the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) sales tax. In 2008, the legislature approved legislation that gave school districts one penny from sales tax money to go toward improving school facilities and technology. The money generated from this penny has done just that: helped districts build and upgrade facilities, upgrade technology equipment for students, and even helped lower property taxes for Iowa taxpayers. The SAVE tax is set to expire in 2029, and with it schools would see sunset their ability to invest in its facilities and technology and for many, limit the ability to publicly bond for future improvements.
In light of news about our lowered state revenues, legislators should be embracing the bill currently in the House that would extend the sunset on SAVE from 2029 to Jan. 1, 2050.
The penny tax, as it’s often called, has been providing critically-needed infrastructure improvements in all of our school districts. This tax has supported energy-efficient HVAC installations to enhance the learning environments in many of our buildings. Our districts have used these funds to help support our efforts to build classroom space and accommodate expanding student populations in many of our elementary attendance centers. Across the board, our students are enjoying additional technology in on our district campuses, partially due to this funding.
SAVE has benefited our local taxpayers as well. Since 2007, the Cedar Rapids Community School District has used SAVE funds to provide $40 million of property tax relief. Since the inception of SAVE, $9 million has been used to buy down the Linn-Mar district’s tax levy. For Marion Independent, the sales tax is equivalent to $4.00 per thousand annually in property tax savings. Just down the road, College Community School District has used more than $20 million of SAVE funds over a 12 year period to directly lower property taxes for local property owners. The Iowa City Community School District has a similar tale to tell: the district was able to use SAVE funds to support $155 million of facility improvements. Without these SAVE dollars, the taxpayer support for this effort would translate to $1.96 tax increase for $1,000 of equalized value.
Ours are just a few of the stories from around the state that provide a testament to the state penny tax’s successes. SAVE funding allows districts to responsibly plan for infrastructure needs, and Iowans in all 99 counties approved the penny tax for that purpose. An extension of this bill is a win for every person in the State of Iowa. It is our hope that the legislature acts quickly to extend this vital source of support for school districts.
Steve Murley, Superintendent, Iowa City Community School District
Brad Buck, Superintendent, Cedar Rapids Community School District
Chris Dyer, Superintendent, Marion Independent School District
John Speer, Superintendent, College Community School District
Quintin Shepherd, Superintendent, Linn-Mar Community School District