The Iowa House today approved a bill to force Iowa school districts to tap their cash reserves, instead of raising property taxes. Schools face that choice in order to cover the 10-percent across the board cut in their state funding. Critics say the cut will mean tens of millions of dollars in property tax hikes , as schools turn to levies to cover the cut.
The bill before the house would put the brakes on some of that. But, critics like Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, say it doesn’t do nearly enough. “Governor Culver needs a fig leaf,” Rants says. Rant, who is also running for governor, say the governor’s cut will push property taxes up as much as $250-million, while forcing schools to tap their cash reserves might save only about 8 million.
Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says amount the bill would save in property taxes isn’t pencil dust. “If that is a fig leaf to you so be it,” Mascher says. Democrats estimate school districts hold as much as 348 million dollars in their cash reserves. Critics of the bill say only a handful of those schools would be forced to spend down their reserves.
Mascher says if schools have millions in reserves, that ought to be spent on the kids.
Mascher says,”If we have the potential to save millions of dollars of property taxes for taxpayers in Iowa we ought to do it.” Greg Forristal, a Republican from Macedonia, estimates that only about 25 districts would be affected, and they’d be forced to spend down very little of their cash.
Forristal says, “And for the entire state for all those 25 districts its less than eight million dollars.”
The bill now goes to the senate.