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Ask questions about your property taxes

- Gretchen Tegeler is president of the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa.

With fall property tax payments due last month, property taxes are top-of-mind for many individuals and businesses.   

Whether you write a check directly, or whether it is paid by the bank or mortgage lender, every property owner or mortgagee receives a paper copy of their property tax statement. It's really important to take a careful look at the back side of the tax statement.

There (and only there, by the way, as it isn't available online) you will find the only source of information that the average taxpayer can use to hold their local governments accountable for the property taxes being levied. You can see not only which government authorities are levying what share of the total property taxes you pay, but also which ones are increasing or decreasing, and by how much, compared with last year. 

Often people are surprised when they look at the information. You may not realize you are supporting not only your city, county and school district, but also Broadlawns Medical Center, Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) and the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).

For instance, 8.6 percent of the property taxes my husband and I pay on our home are going to Broadlawns. The single largest percentage increase in our property taxes (and this would be the case for most everyone in Polk County) is for DART, a whopping 10.4 percent!  The taxes we pay to the city and school district (West Des Moines in both cases) are actually going down compared with last year. This, too, is good to know. 

Each year the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa prepares tax and spending summaries for local governments in central Iowa. This information allows taxpayers to see how their city and school district compare with others, and how they compare with the prior year.

FY 2015-16 City and School Property Tax Rates

Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget Comparisons

These comparisons do not explain why there are differences, so we would caution against drawing any conclusions based on this data alone. However, along with the information on your property tax statement, it may certainly prompt questions that are good entry points for conversation with your elected officials.

Make this be the year you become an active questioner!

 

- Gretchen Tegeler

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Website: www.taxpayersci.org

 

Comments

Iowa/Des Moines metro property taxes for single family homes is one of the highest in the country (top 5 I believe). For example, my parent's home in California, which is valued at more than $400,000 than my house in Beaverdale, pay the same amount as I do.

Is there one place to find all property tax rebates and/or abatements in Iowa?

Des Moines is ranked very high compared with the other largest cities in each state, particularly on commercial property but also on residential, in terms of net effective tax rate. However, median home prices are lower here, so if you look at property taxes on a median valued home, we are about in the middle.
See: https://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/dl/3550_2891_Pay_2014_PT_Report.pdf

Regarding the question about information on rebates, etc., please contact me directly at gtegeler@taxpayersci.org.

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