Have you recently received notice that your property tax assessment has been increased? Have you had local elected officials that claim that because they are leaving their levy the same they are not raising taxes? There is a bill currently moving through the Iowa legislature that will provide more transparency for taxpayers and will make it easier to answer the question, “Who actually raised my taxes?”

House Study Bill 165 will require local governments to take a public vote to raise spending more than two percent per year. That two percent represents a reasonable growth rate that taxpayers can understand the necessity of. It takes away the ability of local governments – intentionally or not — to deceive taxpayers by telling them their tax rate was not increased, and then taxpayers are shocked to receive a property tax bill with a giant increase. There seems to be a growing trend by local governments to ride large increases in valuations (causing tax collections even at a steady rate to increase greatly). This legislation ends that behavior.

Under the bill, local governments will start with their prior year’s budget, then they decide how much they need for next year’s budget. When they receive their property valuations, they then calculate what the levy needs to be in order to collect the correct amount of property tax.

If a local government feels strongly that they need to certify a budget higher than 102 percent of the prior year, the council or board simply passes a resolution of their intent to do so. If the taxpayers do not have an issue with it — it is certified and that budget (despite being over the 102 percent) becomes the base for the next year’s calculation.

But what if the taxpayers do object? House Study Bill 165 provides a mechanism for taxpayers to call for a vote on whether the government should go over the 102 percent limitation. If the taxpayers get the requisite signatures, the local government can either abandon the proposal and go back to 102 percent — or wait for the results of the referendum.

The legislation recognizes that there are some funds or sources of revenue that need to be outside of this calculation of up to 102 percent. The legislation leaves all net new property out of the limitation. If a city had a new development built one year — the legislation would not include that value in the calculation that year. Additionally, any bonding, mental health, EMS, capital funds or voted upon levies (symphonies, libraries, etc.) live outside of this limitation calculation. The things that are included in the limitation calculation are the emergency, trust and agency, transit, utility replacement transfers, anything under the city 8.10 levy or the county general or supplemental levies. These are things taxpayers would generally think of as “general fund” pots of money.

House Study Bill 165’s goal is to provide transparency for taxpayers as well as local control.

Customers Save $630M Under Plans Approved by IUB

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) issued three orders last week approving the proposed five-year energy efficiency plans by Alliant Energy - Interstate Power and Light Company (docket EEP-2018-0003), Black Hills Energy Company (EEP-2018-0004) and Liberty Utilities (EEP-2018-0005). Earlier this year, the IUB approved the proposed five-year energy efficiency plan by MidAmerican Energy (EEP-2018-0002). The IUB’s final orders are available under each docket number in the IUB’s electronic filing system at efs.iowa.gov.

Last year the legislature capped the fees charged to consumers for energy-efficiency plans managed by the utilities. Beginning in April or May, customers of these rate-regulated utilities should see a decrease in the energy efficiency charge on their monthly bill. As a result, these new plans have a projected savings to customers of over $635 million dollars.

If you have any questions or concerns for Dave Deyoe, please contact him: Home phone: 515-382-2352. E-mail: Dave.Deyoe@legis.iowa.gov