Several groups have proposed changes in Iowa’s property tax system, including the Iowa League of Cities and the Iowa State Association of Counties. The main goal of the plan advanced by cities and counties is to simplify the system according to Cedar Rapids Mayor Paul Pate, the current chairman of the Iowa League of Cities.”The property tax system as we know it is far too complicated and I think for too many politicians that’s an easy way to get off the hook for being accountable,” Pate says. Pate says cities and counties would accept a property tax freeze if the state ends the “rollback” system which adjusts the taxes on business and commercial property. Pate says he can’t tell prospective business owners what their property tax payments will be because the state determines the local tax rates on business property. Pate says there’s been no real change in the state’s property tax system since the 1970s. “Iowa’s economy has changed. In my opinion, this particular property tax system was designed to fit more of 19th century economy. (It is) strictly ag-driven, not value-agriculture, not industry, not service — it misses all those points,” Pate says. “We want to get into the 21st century and this is a chance of doing that.” Pate, a former state legislator, urges lawmakers to focus on property tax reform first. “To those legislators…who want to do it all at once — income, property, all of it — I just don’t want to disappoint them, but there really isn’t a Wizard of Oz,” Pate says. “There really is not a perfect answer to all of it at one setting.” He describes the reform plan cities and counties are advanced as a “base” from which to build.
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