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Property tax sticker shock

2017 Property Taxes on a West Des Moines Home

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

Property tax bills are paid twice per year, in September and March. For those who actually write a check, there is always a sense of sticker shock. For example:

  • A property owner in a home valued at $200,000 in Ankeny would pay about $4,600 per year or $2,300 twice a year.
  • An Ankeny business with property valued at $200,000 would pay about $7,700 per year (less its share of a $1,665 tax credit that the state issues for each commercial property “unit,” or building).

Because property taxes are normally incorporated into a mortgage or rent payment, few individuals actually write a check for property taxes. But everyone pays, and everyone can – and should – look at his or her property tax statement.

The Polk county treasurer and assessor’s offices have recently improved their websites, making it easier than ever to quickly research property tax information.

Staying up to date on your property taxes allows you to know things like:

  • What government entities are your property taxes supporting? Many people are not aware of their support of Broadlawns Medical Center, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) system, or Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). Your property tax statement tells you what local governments you are supporting, and how much support you are giving them each year.
  • Which local government takes the largest share of your property taxes?
  • Which government had the largest increase in property taxes compared with last year?

Knowing the answers to these questions allows you to hold your elected officials accountable for their decisions.

The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa reports annually on property tax rates and increases in property tax collections for city governments and schools in central Iowa.

Do yourself a favor and increase your understanding of the community in which you live and pay taxes. If you’re satisfied, that’s great. If you’re not, consider learning more about what it takes to make change – through our organization, or directly by attending one of your local school board, city council, Broadlawns, DMACC or DART meetings.


Good info, Gretchen! Will see if I can get this detail from Wayne County. Overall, I don't complain much about my property taxes. It is more than worth what I receive: the opportunity to live in this nation of liberty. Mary Ellen

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