LETTER: Property tax bill promotes government transparency

May 2, 2019

Last week, the Iowa Senate and House passed their final version of a bill seeking to promote local government transparency and citizen participation in the budget process.

More specifically, this bill, if signed by Gov. Reynolds, would require a supermajority, or two-thirds, of any City Council or county Board of Supervisors to approve any fiscal year property tax revenue budget that increases more than 2 percent from the prior fiscal year.

Along with the two-thirds vote, the bill would also require local officials to publish the meeting date of this vote to allow sufficient time for public appeal and participation.

Finally, this bill would require local governments to publish their year-to-year budget totals in easy-to-understand total property tax askings instead of the various levy rates that are often misleading and confusing.

The TRC has long been a strong proponent of transparency in government spending. This bill makes the local budget process more transparent and honest. By focusing on total property tax askings instead of the various, often confusing, levy amounts, citizens will have a better understanding of their total tax bills when looking at their entire tax position including assessment value, rollback rates and levy amounts. Government bodies will be more accountable and will not be able to claim they are fiscal stewards when only part of the property tax equation changes. Taylor Goodvin, executive director, Taxpayers Research Council