Governor Tom Vilsack is calling for significant changes in Iowa’s property tax system, but not immediately. One goal would be to make the system fairer, because today business property is taxed at a much higher rate than homes or farms. Vilsack says the legislature can’t pass a bill that solves all the problems immediately, but there may be some small things that happen soon while other ideas are tested out. Vilsack wants to simplify things and charge Iowa property owners a flat percentage of what their home, business or farm is worth. “Right now we have a very convoluted system that’s hard to explain,” Vilsack says. He suggests charging half a percent of the value of a property in taxes for cities and counties. Then, cities and counties would have that much money to spend. It would cost less to administer that kind of property tax system, “and people would understand it” according to Vilsack. He also suggests letting cities and counties test merging, so Iowans can see the results. Vilsack says if a couple of counties or cities in Iowa tried mergers, there’d be some “real life experience” in Iowa to convince voters to support mergers rather than examples from out-of-state with which Iowans have no connection. Vilsack is meeting often with a group of 12 lawmakers, trying to come up with new ideas for making Iowa cities, counties and state government more efficient to save property taxpayers money.
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