County opposes state property tax bill

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The Jones County Board of Supervisors moved swiftly to send word to Des Moines that the county is against the legislature’s proposal to limit the use of property tax revenue. 

During the April 23 board meeting, the supervisors approved a letter to area legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds, outlining reasons for their disapproval. 

Days following the Jones County board meeting, the Iowa House and Senate were debating the bill. It passed in the Senate 33-17; in the House 53-46. Rep. Lee Hein of Monticello was in support of the bill. 

Ultimately, the bill would require more transparency in the local governments (cities, counties, schools) when raising property taxes. State legislators say one of the biggest issues raised by their constituents is increased property taxes. 

Under what was approved last week by the Senate and House, local governments would be required to hold a public hearing to review property tax use. During that hearing, the property tax levy would be finalized. If that levy produces revenue of 2 percent or less, it must be approved by a majority vote. Due to the new changes, local governments now have until March 31 to certify their budgets with the state. (The prior deadline was March 15.) 

Jones County Attorney Kristofer Lyons urged the board to take a formal position on the matter. 

“It’s a local government issues and crosses all party lines,” he said. “It’s not about lowering property taxes. It’s a bill that targets rural counties and ties your hands. I don’t think it actually solves what it’s trying to solve.” 

If the bill was to address transparency in allowing taxpayers to voice their concerns over the county budget, County Auditor Janine Sulzner said those people never attend the budget hearings anyway. 

Supervisor Joe Oswald said as the state comes up with unfunded mandates, counties have to find ways to fund those programs. 

“It’s an opportunity for the legislature to go home and say they lowered property taxes,” voiced Supervisor Ned Rohwedder. “They don’t see the repercussions at the county level.” 

Rohwedder said one way the state could lower property taxes would be to take on the funding of regional mental health rather than put it on the counties. 

“The only way we can pay for it is to raise property taxes,” added Supervisor Wayne Manternach. He said mental health is an issue that affects people, not property, and should be funded at the state level rather than with property taxes at the county level. 

The board said property taxes are needed to meet the needs of the county. 

“Each service is going to get cut,” added Manternach. “It’s going to crush every county, big and small.” 


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