Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
The Driscoll Dispatch
By State Sen. Dawn Driscoll
May. 9, 2023 10:48 am
Thursday of week 17 was the final day of the 2023 session. I can’t believe it is this time of year already! The time went by so quickly but I feel as though we accomplished a lot this session in Des Moines. Much of the week was taken up with debate over the $8.517 billion budget.
AEA funding is sourced from state aid, property tax levies, and federal funding. The state aid portion of funding is increased every year by the same rate of growth as SSA. However, Iowa Code contains a statutory decrease to the AEAs of $7.5 million. In addition, the legislature has historically passed an additional reduction in standings. Despite these reductions, the AEAs still receive net increases. In FY 23, AEAs received $241.5 million, which is an increase of $4.8 million over the appropriation made in FY 22. For FY 24, AEAs received $244.6 million, which is an increase of $3.1 million over FY 23, following the reduction made in this year’s bill. AEAs are suffering from significant administrative bloat. In 2020, 42.2 percent of AEA expenditures were for support services for administration and staff. The AEA chief administrators average a yearly compensation of $291,414 while the average salary for Iowa’s teachers is $60,154, and for AEA special education teachers it is $81,118.
On Tuesday the Senate passed HF 430, a bill to crack down on teachers moving from district to district if they have been found to engage in inappropriate contact with their students. Unfortunately, these circumstances happen. One of the most recent examples was a teacher in DeWitt, who then taught in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City before he was charged by law enforcement.
HF 430 eliminates an exception for some child abuse reports to not be filed, states all school employees over age 18 are mandatory reporters, prohibits schools from entering into agreements where the school would be unable to accurately describe the behavior of the teacher in question, and provides liability protection for the school from employment claims against the school. This reform is needed and will help make Iowa children safer in K-12 schools. It will also help to prevent employees with known suspicious or criminal conduct from being hired by other schools.
Historic Property Tax Relief Passed for Iowans
One of the primary concerns we heard from Iowans going into this legislative session was about property taxes. Citizens all across the state were concerned about a rise in assessments and how it would affect their property tax bill. Finding a solution was one of our top priorities going into this year, even more so after statewide assessment increases averaged 20-30 percent this year.
The legislature passed House File 718 this week. This bill is the solution to skyrocketing assessments and fears on being able to afford the property tax bill. House File 718 automatically reduces tax rates when assessments rise, restores basic levy limitations to control government spending, and eliminates loopholes abused by local governments to exceed limits set by law.
It also provides over $100 million in relief to Iowa property taxpayers, including new exemptions for veterans and senior citizens, while also increasing transparency in property taxes and local government spending. Additionally, it moves all elections for bonding to the general election date in November.
Some local governments wanted business as usual, but polling shows 2/3 of Iowans wanted limits on how much local governments can tax and spend. HF 718 is the most comprehensive property tax reform ever, and it pushes local governments to follow the Republican legislature’s example to budget responsibly, invest in important priorities, and provide tax relief to the taxpayer.
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