Bill Clears Committees on Sales Tax Money for Area Schools

Area school districts are keeping a close eye on a piece of legislation that directly benefits them. School districts like Forest City, Garner Hayfield Ventura, and others look to the legislation as a revenue source to help pay for improvements to school property. The education committees in the Iowa House and Senate have approved the bill that would ensure area and all Iowa school districts have tens of millions of dollars in sales taxes to pay for said improvements for decades to come. Margaret Buckton, a lobbyist for Rural School Advocates of Iowa, says this is the group’s number one legislative priority.

The one percent sales tax established statewide in 2009 for school infrastructure is due to expire in 2039. The bill legislators are considering would extend that another 20 years. Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, says most bonding agencies require a 20-year repayment plan, so schools will start to face higher interest rates on bonds if this bill doesn’t pass.

In 1999, the Iowa legislature allowed local option sales taxes to be raised for renovating or building new schools. Within a decade, 96 counties were collecting the sales tax, but critics said districts near retail centers got a higher proportion of those taxes. Ten years ago, legislators made the switch to distributing the one-cent sales tax for school infrastructure on a per pupil basis.