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Capitol Notebook: Property tax fix signed into law
Also, a family of Ukrainian refugees introduced in the Iowa House
Feb. 20, 2023 6:12 pm
DES MOINES — Iowa property owners are off the hook for about $130 million in taxes they otherwise would have paid under an erroneous assessment formula, but local governments are left holding the bag under legislation signed into law Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Changes to property tax law in 2013 and 2021 changed multiresidential properties, like apartment complexes, to be taxed at the same rate as all residential properties.
However, no corresponding changes were made to the section of Iowa Code that defines the mathematical formula used to calculate the number that is used to establish the statewide taxable value for each property class subject to taxation by cities, counties, school districts, community colleges and other taxing entities.
The result: a higher percentage for residential property as a whole, because former multiresidential was included. That “rollback rate” — designed to cap the total taxable value for homes and farms from increasing more than 3 percent — was set at 56.5 percent when it should have been 54.6 percent.
Statewide, it means a swing of tens of millions of property tax dollars.
Local government administrators had unsuccessfully urged lawmakers to delay the fix or make up the shortfalls with state reserve funds so they can avoid for now cutting planned public services to fit the loss in revenue.
The proposed fix, Senate File 181, passed the Iowa House, 86-13, and unanimously passed the Iowa Senate.
Ukrainian refugees honored
A family of refugees from the war in Ukraine was introduced on the floor of the Iowa House.
Alina Poznanska and her children, Milana and Eldar, are staying in Iowa with Carol Kramer, of Newton. The Poznanskas were introduced to the Iowa House by Rep. Austin Baeth, D-Des Moines.
The family was introduced in the Iowa House on the same day that President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine.
Alina’s husband, Artem, remains in Ukraine, where he is serving with the country’s military. Baeth said the family decided that Alina and the children would come to the U.S. when the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, was inundated by Russian bombs and missiles.
“Alina and Artem decided that Alina and the kids would go, to keep the family alive and to protect the psyche of the children,” Baeth said.
Baeth praised Kramer for hosting the Poznanska family.
“Carol really, I think, embodies my idealistic character of an Iowan, which is it doesn’t matter if that person lives across the street or lives across the ocean, they’re your neighbor, they’re a fellow human, and we’re going to take care of you,” Baeth said.
Governor marks Black History Month
Iowa government leaders and Black lawmakers commemorated Black History Month at the Iowa Capitol, highlighting Iowans who were trailblazers for racial equity.
Before signing a proclamation marking February as Black History Month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said many Black Iowans had made history by striving for equal rights. She cited the first decision by Iowa’s territorial Supreme Court, which ruled that an escaped enslaved person could not be returned to Missouri after escaping to Iowa.
“Every February we recognize Black History Month to remember the remarkable contributions of these men and women whose courage helped us embody our highest ideals,” Reynolds said.
Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, told of his family history, including his great-great- grandfather, who was part of Iowa’s first non-white military regiment after escaping enslavement in Missouri.
“Black History Month is critical, but we can’t just limit it to a month,” Wilburn said. “And Black history is American history.”
Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, spoke on the House floor about a Black leader with whom he served in the Marine Corps: Master Gunnery Sgt. Bill Dower, who upon his retirement became known for assisting actors who portrayed military leaders in movies, and for his own role in beer commercials.
“For Master Gunnery Sgt. Dower, who was such a mentor to me and to so many other Marines, he is now guarding heaven’s gates,” Holt said. “You have my greatest respect, admiration and appreciation.”
Property tax reductions
Iowa Senate lawmakers advanced a bill aimed at limiting property tax bills for Iowans.
Senate Study Bill 1124 would put a cap on how much taxable property value can grow in Iowa’s cities and counties and reduce local governments’ levy rates if assessed property values grow over a set percent in the coming year. The bill would prevent owners from seeing large jumps in property taxes if their assessment goes up, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Dan Dawson of Council Bluffs said.
“It’s effectively a ratcheting mechanism to make sure this assessment growth is actually used to buy down the levy to actually generate some property tax relief,” Dawson said.
The bill would combine several revenue streams into a general levy for both city and county governments in an attempt to prevent the actual property tax levy increases by cities and counties to be higher than the rates set in Iowa law.
It would also phase out the Public Education and Recreational Levy, a tax that voters can pass to fund school playgrounds and other recreational equipment. Those items can now be funded through a school infrastructure tax, Dawson said.
The committee passed the bill in a party-line vote, 11-5. Democrats argued the changes could lead to weakened services provided by local governments.
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau