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Capitol Notebook: Iowa House advances fix to property tax rate error
Feb. 6, 2023 6:15 pm
DES MOINES — Iowa lawmakers continue to advance a proposal to fix a state error that's left property taxpayers on the hook for higher bills than expected, but could leave local governments short millions in expected revenue.
A House Ways and Means subcommittee Monday advanced Senate File 181 for a hearing by the full committee Wednesday.
The panel of lawmakers heard from representatives for Iowa’s cities, counties and community colleges, who urged lawmakers to delay for a year changing the residential property tax rollback rate to allow local governments more time to make adjustments to absorb the financial blow. Or, alternatively, replace the property tax revenue local governments will lose with one-time state dollars.
Subcommittee member Rep. David Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he plans to introduce an amendment to use $127 million from the state’s more than $2 billion taxpayer trust fund to temporarily make cities, counties and other local taxing entities whole.
A similar amendment to replace the property tax revenue local governments would lose failed on a largely party-line vote last week in the Senate.
Cities, counties, community colleges and police officials argued local governments need more time to plan for the reduced revenues while avoiding cuts to public safety — which accounts for a bulk of city and county budgets — and other essential services in the coming fiscal year.
Representatives for Iowans for Tax Relief and the Iowa Taxpayers Association said a delay would equate to higher property tax bills for Iowa homeowners.
Victoria Sinclair with Iowans for Tax Relief noted the bill does not preclude local governments from raising property tax rates or using cash reserves to account for a revenue shortfall.
Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said in an email Monday to the City Council and department heads that the Senate bill would cost the city approximately $2.5 million.
While the House debates its version of legislation to fix the state’s error, Pomeranz said the city would postpone its budget meeting initially scheduled for Tuesday “because we do not yet know exactly how a final bill will impact the budget.” He said the city would reschedule the budget session with the council as soon as a bill is finalized.
New director named for Iowa Law Enforcement Academy
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday appointed Sgt. Brady Carney of the Des Moines Police Department’s Investigations Division to lead the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
“Sergeant Carney’s years of experience in police patrol, investigation, and intelligence have prepared him to provide the best possible training experience for recruits,” Reynolds said in a statement.
In a statement, Carney said Iowa residents “deserve excellence from their public servants and the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy will work tirelessly to ensure those expectations are met.”
Carney has served as a uniformed patrol officer and narcotics investigator throughout his career, according to the governor’s office, and has trained and supervised other officers throughout. He was named Des Moines Police Officer of the Year in 2019.
As director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Carney will oversee law enforcement training and education, and evaluate its performance in meeting immediate and long-term goals.
He begins his new role March 6.
Carney succeeds former Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw. She was appointed by former Gov. Terry Branstad to lead the academy in 2015 after she served one year as the assistant director.
Bradshaw retired, according to the governor’s office, but it was not immediately clear when she retired.
Delayed funds won’t result in loss of heat
State Auditor Rob Sand assured eligible low-income Iowans their heating will not be turned off despite a delay in payments under a home heating assistance program.
In an advisory issued Monday, Sand said Iowa law prohibits eligible Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program customers from being disconnected from electricity or natural gas supply from November through April, regardless of temperature.
The federally funded program is designed to help low-income households pay for their heating needs.
“I have received several inquiries from Iowans who qualify for energy assistance through LIHEAP but their accounts have not been credited by their utility vendor, or they have not received their direct payment from LIHEAP,” Sand said in the advisory. “We want to assure those Iowans that their heat will not be turned off in the dead of winter.”
Sand said he and his office are monitoring the situation, and they believe the LIHEAP dollars will be distributed and credited by April.