Iowa school districts count on Legislature to extend 1% sales taxDecember 27, 2018
The statewide 1 percent sales tax has been a boon for public schools, with much of the proceeds put into remodeling and rebuilding them.
As school districts near the final decade before the end of the tax, officials see an increasing importance in continuing it beyond 2029.
Extending the sales tax “is one of the biggest priorities of all the school boards across the state,” said Lisa Bartusek, executive director of the Iowa Association of School Boards, during a recent meeting with The Courier’s editorial board. Based on input from member school boards, the association’s delegate assembly made extending the sales tax among its top four priorities to advocate before the Legislature.
Officially known as Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, the penny sales tax was signed into law in 2008 to continue over a 20-year period. It succeeded the 1 percent local option sales for schools that went into effect following passage by the Legislature in 1998. By 2008, voters in school districts across all 99 of Iowa’s counties had approved a local option tax for schools.
Along with infrastructure needs, the money can be used for property tax relief and other expenses like maintenance, buses and technology. Funds can’t be spent on salaries, benefits, or instructional supplies such as textbooks or software. Revenues collected by the state are distributed on a per-student basis.
That has provided $471 million annually for school facility needs, according to research by the IASB. Another $221 million was used to “buy down” property tax costs from other school levies between fiscal years 2011 and 2017. Since fiscal year 2011, districts have also provided $92 million in direct property tax relief with the sales tax funds.