Republicans say they plan to ensure property taxpayers in 277 school districts with declining student enrollment do not see a property tax increase. The proposed legislation will be debated in the Iowa House on Tuesday, setting aside $47 million to cover what would have been property tax increases in those districts.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says property tax relief is a top priority for the G.O.P. “The responsibility to pay (property taxes) bears no relationship with an ability to pay,” Paulsen says. Democrats say the Republicans have to take this step because they’re proposed a zero percent increase in general state aid to Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools.
Representative Nate Willems, a Democrat from Lisbon, says schools are dealing with escalating costs. “Insurance, utilities continue to go up and zero percent does not give school districts the ability to meet those responsibilities,” Willems says. Democrats in the Iowa Senate have proposed a two percent increase in general state aid for public schools.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says the G.O.P. plan which calls for no increase in general state spending on schools for the next two academic years is “unprecedented.” “I guess in my mind that’s just completely outrageous,” Gronstal says. “We think it will result in thousands of people losing their jobs across the state, so we’re very concerned.”
Paulsen, the top Republican leader in the House, says the G.O.P. plan includes an additional 217 million to cover shortages in last’s year’s state aid to schools. “It is actually one of the largest commitments…that is being made in quite a few years,” Paulsen says. “It’s sure a great deal larger than what the Democrats and Governor Culver did last year.”
The Iowa House will debate school funding levels on Tuesday and a committee in the Iowa Senate will consider the issue on Monday.