Education

Property tax rate going down for Cedar Rapids Community School District

31-cent drop is function of bigger tax base and legislative limits

CEDAR RAPIDS — The property tax rate for the Cedar Rapids Community School District will decrease by 31 cents under a fiscal 2019 budget approved Tuesday by the school board.

The budget sets the district’s levy at $15.06 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, a decrease that amounts to an annual savings of about $47 for the owner of a $150,000 home.

“It’s really good news,” district Chief Financial Officer Steve Graham said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We should be real happy about that.”

The district does not plan to make any significant cuts or reductions next school year, Graham added.

“We’re in a really good place,” he said. “We’re really solid right now.”

The rate drop is primarily due to the area’s growing property tax base. The tax bill that individual property owners ultimately pay will depend not only on the rate set Tuesday, but also on any changes in the assessed value of the land.

“It’s simple mathematics,” Graham explained about the decrease at a March 26 board meeting. “If we are limited to 1 percent growth in our spending level of our general fund, and we see a 6 percent gain in the local property tax base, the levy rate will drop. It’s as simple as that.”

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Iowa lawmakers earlier this year approved a 1 percent increase in state supplemental aid to school districts for fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1. School districts are allowed to spend only at levels authorized by the state.

“Taxing ourselves to pay for things that we need isn’t something we are able to do because of the reality of school authority in Iowa,” Graham said Tuesday. “We simply can’t raise the tax back up to $15.37, and raise extra millions of dollars and use those for the things that are important to us.”

For taxpayers, the decrease to the school district’s property tax levy comes in addition to a 30 cent decrease to Linn County’s property tax levy for fiscal 2019. The city’s tax rate is set to remain unchanged.

The school board approved the budget with no nay votes, which estimates the district’s total revenues at $263,361,322 and expenditures at $269,630,385. Members John Laverty and Mary Meisterling joined the meeting via phone. Nancy Humbles and Jennifer Borcherding were not in attendance.

The statutory deadline for Iowa school districts to certify their budgets is Sunday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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