Most of the attention on new state laws centers on the smoking ban. However, another state law which goes into effect today puts in motion a process that will yield millions for school improvements in smaller districts, but most of us won’t notice. That’s because voters in each of Iowa’s 99 counties had approved a one percent local option sales tax for schools.
The new law simply redistributes all the money collected in counties statewide, on a per student basis. Margaret Buckton of the Iowa Association of School Boards says shoppers won’t notice, but many schools will.
"When you don’t see the impact on your pocketbook as a consumer, you might wonder what the benefit is for school districts, " Buckton says. "The biggest thing is predictability which means that school districts will be able to bond against it. The bonding community and so they’ll get a lower interest rate and their money will go much further."
Most schools borrow, or obtain bonds, to finance school building construction or renovation. Buckton says redistributing the money on a per pupil basis will help smaller districts in rural areas which do not have many retail stores and haven’t collected much in sales taxes for school improvements.
"You know, buildings do make a difference," Buckton says. "Having a quality science lab when we want kids to be fully aware of biolife sciences and that’s the future of Iowa’s economy, they have to be able to experience science. They can’t do that at a normal desk or school setting."
Webster is the only county where shoppers may notice the difference. Webster County voters approved a half-a-percent local option sales tax. Now, they’re paying a full percent, or a penny on every dollar’s worth of purchases.