School districts in Iowa are the largest part of your property tax bill.
The amount local governments choose to spend determines your tax bill, not assessments, taxable values, exemptions, or credits. A reasonable property tax growth rate would be one that is close to the combined percent change of inflation and the school’s enrollment. If your taxes are unreasonable, take advantage of public hearings to let your school board know how you feel.
The Iowa Department of Education states, "Per pupil expenditure amounts, while informative, provide an incomplete framework in which to understand statewide, district, or school expenditure levels. A wide range of per pupil expenditure values exist as the result of a multitude of district and school differences statewide.
* Most property tax levies for Iowa's public schools are set by the state’s funding formula. However, a few levies are set by each district's school board. Ask your board members about these levies and where they are spending your money:
* Instructional Support Levy - Voter-approved for ten years or board-imposed for five years. Many boards have decided to bypass taxpayers and impose this levy on their own. Funds from this property tax go directly into a school’s general fund. Statewide ranges for this levy are from $0.00 to $1.76671. Voters can force an election to repeal this levy.
* Management Levy - The school board approves annually and is frequently used to pay for early retirement. Why are taxpayers funding early retirement when they have already funded a very generous pension for school employees? Statewide ranges for this levy are from $0.00 to $6.23167.
* Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) - The school board approves annually, while voters must approve the voted PPEL levy. The maximum PPEL allowed is 33 cents; however, the board may approve a lower rate. The maximum voted PPEL is $1.34 for a ten-year period. The question is why the maximum rates are needed by so many school districts when the state provides funding for school infrastructure through the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) tax, a local sales tax.
* Debt Service Levy - Approved by voters for up to twenty years to pay for bonds issued by the district. Districts frequently wait for a bond to end and, at the same time, hold an election for a new bond, so taxpayers never see savings. Statewide ranges for this levy are from $0.00 to $4.05. Again, the SAVE tax goes to infrastructure, so it should offset a high debt service levy.