The data from the Iowa Department of Revenue shows that Iowa counties are receiving over $78.3 million in state backfill funding and taxpayers are receiving over $49 million in credits, for a total of roughly $127.3 million, in the 2013 assessment year, as part of the historic property tax reduction bill advocated for by Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds.
The plan includes many benefits. Part of the plan is permanent property tax relief protected by a standing appropriation, that represents the largest tax reduction in Iowa history – $4.4 billion over 10 years. Another part is property tax reduction for all classes of property: agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial, without shift of the tax burden to other classes of property. Changes the school finance formula so that “allowable growth” is replaced by 100% state aid. Finally, commercial and industrial property are being taxed at 95% of assessed value this year, eventually moving to 90% of assessed value next year.
The historic tax reform passage of 2013 received strong bipartisan support. It passed the Iowa Senate 43-6, and the Iowa House 84-13 in May.
State funds, called “backfill” were paid to counties to ensure they did not see a loss in revenue from the property tax reduction. This is permanent relief protected by a standing appropriation.
State Senator Randy Feenstra of Hull says that the state has seen an uptick in the economy since 2008 and 2009. He says that the governor and legislature have used this increased revenue and “plowed it back into commercial tax relief.” Feenstra says that it is actually a tax shift when you backfill using other tax money.
The money to pay the backfill comes from the ending balance. It’s unspent money left over at the end of the state fiscal year.
Critics of the deal say this spending is crowding out other priorities for state government and they say with the escalating commitment, the governor may have set the stage for future tax increases; all of which Branstad rejects.
In our area, O’Brien County, state backfill amounted to $230,325.56. State tax credit to taxpayers amounted to $383,546.68, and total tax relief funding to the county was $613,872.24. Sioux County’s backfill was $651,173.77. And credit to taxpayers was $765,007.94, for a total of $1,416,181.71. In Osceola County, the backfill amounted to $148,531.07; individual relief was $158,800.32; for a total of $307,331.39. And in Lyon County, the backfill was $175,878.11; individual relief amounted to $216,668.63; and the total tax relief funding to the county was $392,546.74.
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson assisted with this story.