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House bill would allow school districts to levy more taxes

School Buses 2By Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

A bill introduced in the Iowa House this week would authorize local school districts to raise taxes on their patrons.

House File 359, offered by state Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant) would authorize any public school district to enact a voter-approved “transportation cost supplemental levy.” The amount levied cannot exceed the district’s actual transportation costs for the preceding budget year, minus the amount received in state transportation aid.

The additional property tax revenue can only be used to pay for the district’s actual transportation costs. That includes, but is not limited to, the cost of repairing, maintaining, and fueling school district transportation equipment and school buses.

Upon receipt of a petition signed by a number of eligible electors equal to at least 25 percent of the turnout for the most recent school election, the school board is required to put the question of a transportation cost supplemental levy to a vote. A simple majority of votes cast is needed for the question to pass.

Once approved at an election, the authority of the school board to levy and collect the tax has no sunset. The board can unilaterally rescind the tax, and another petition of the voters can force a vote to end the tax.

HF 359 also states that a school district may not use its General Fund revenues outside the transportation cost account, to pay for transportation costs. If approved, the bill would go into effect for Fiscal Year 2017 (beginning July 1, 2016).

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is opposed to the bill, while the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is in favor of its passage. The Iowa Public Transit Association, the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, and the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants are all “undecided.”