The Spencer City Council approved a resolution Monday stating the city’s opposition to proposed state legislation that would limit cities’ and counties’ increase in property tax revenue to 2% per year.
At the Eggs and Issues form Sunday, area state legislators defended their support of the legislation.
Many Republican state representatives, including Megan Jones of House District 2 and John Wills of District 1, say this is in response to constituents’ concerns regarding transparency in property tax calculations and increases.
Opponents, including cities and counties across the state, argue the legislation robs municipalities of local control in how they manage their budgets and plan for future needs.
“Disappointing I think is a fair statement,” City Manager Amanda Mack told the council of how she felt about legislators’ responses at the forum. “What I came away with is that no one – and this is both from what I heard Saturday and through the city manager’s group – no one really knows what’s in this bill and how it’s going to impact, both from a legislative side and a city official side.”
Municipalities could propose greater increases in revenues, but the legislation, House File 773, would require city councils or county boards of supervisors to approve resolution stating the increase. Residents would then be given an opportunity to call for a vote to turn down the increase.
“There were some statements that were made on Saturday that I’m just not sure where they’re getting their information,” Mack said. “Statements made about communities that are giving 10% raises to their employees and they’re hiding it in different funds, which isn’t true in any way, shape or form.”
Other cities, including Sioux City, have passed resolutions similar to Spencer’s to make their opposition known.
The Spencer City Council approved the resolution, 6-0. Ward 4 Council Member Leann Jacobsen was absent.
Mack also mentioned a part of HF 773 that requires IPERS funds be lumped into city and county general fund budgets, though it’s expected that will be amended out of the legislation.
George Moriarity, city council member at large, asked what was the idea behind that provision.
“They talked about transparency,” Mack answered. “They believe that some communities are not being open and transparent on where the dollars are going. But if you just look at the certification page that we submit to the auditor annually with our budget, that outlines where every dollar in our budget is going.”
Mack said the legislation doesn’t match past calls from Des Moines for increased local control.
“A little disappointing to hear continual comments about local control and ‘we support that’ and then this,” she said.
Ward 2 Council Member Bill Orrison said it seems the state believes that if assessments go up a certain percentage, then every property owner is going to see a property tax increase of that same percentage.
“That’s not the case,” he said. “I think everybody, especially in our county, county board of supervisors, our school and this group here, I think we do a really good job of controlling our costs. And I think all three of those entities go through a very detailed process with what the minimum they need in dollars to provide services that are citizens ask for. And I think this is putting limitations on what our citizens potentially want.”