The Iowa House today began a debate about a bill that sets aside millions more state tax dollars for teacher pay. Today’s first partisan skirmish came over a requirement that schools have a school nurse, a librarian and a guidance counselor on staff. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, tried to forbid school districts in Iowa from raising property taxes to pay those three staffers’ salaries.
"I’ve tried passionately for the last several years to lower property taxes, to lessen the burden of these taxes on my constituents," Dolecheck says. "I admit that I’ve not been extremely successful in this endeavor." Dolecheck points to past efforts to raise the amount of state tax dollars sent to the state’s schools in order to reduce schools’ reliance on property taxes, and Dolecheck says allowing schools to use property taxes to pay for those three staff positions goes in the opposite direction.
"We should be here finding ways to lower property taxes through other means, not allowing or mandating property taxes to pay for school expenses or salaries," Dolecheck says. But Representative Cindy Lou Winckler a Democrat from Davenport, argues schools should be given the option of raising property taxes to pay those salaries.
"The majority of school districts have other resources to fund these additional positions," Winckler says. According to Winckler, all but 32 Iowa schools who do not have a nurse, a guidance counselor and a librarian on staff have cash reserves or budget surpluses so they wouldn’t have to raise property taxes. The House voted 49 to 47 to allow schools to raise property taxes in order to employ a school nurse, librarian and guidance counselor.