Voters in Dallas County (the majority of which) is in House District 19, will go to the polls on November 7 and have the Lost Option Sales Tax on the ballot. The LOST tax earned its place on our ballot this year by way of a citizen petition.
Based on the way our city, county, and state taxes work, imposing a LOST tax at the local level is a strategic way to raise revenue with a tax spread across a larger swath of land.
The challenges however are the ways the current law functions; and unfortunately House District 19 suffers at the hands of an outdated law.
- First, cities like Adel, Dallas Center, and Minburn vote and pass or reject the tax increase at the city level. Cities like Urbandale and West Des Moines are required to “vote as one entity”. What that means is that their votes are all tallied as one, so if 100 votes are cast in Urbandale to impose the tax and 99 people vote in West Des Moines to not impose the tax; the 100 votes in Urbandale beats the 99 votes in West Des Moines. The caveat of that is that even if a city passes the LOST tax, they are not required to implement the tax.
- Secondly, under the current laws of LOST, the taxes paid are put into a county pot and handed out based on a formula developed 35 years ago. Seventy-five percent is based on the city's population according to the latest federal census; Twenty-five percent is based on the city's property tax values between 1982 and 1985.
Ultimately, implementing the tax could bring in $11.8 million county-wide annually, according to estimates provided by the Iowa Department of Revenue
Each city recently submitted their plan for how to use the funds and are working on the language for the ballots.
I encourage all voters to take a look at your city’s proposed use of the new funds at the Dallas County Auditor’s Website (PDF).
Personally, I am voting in favor of this 1% tax increase because this is a simple way to raise local revenue for a set planned use with a built-in retirement.
I do however, plan to work to reform this law to be tied to modern and current measurements, and also to set in place a “soft-sunset” provision which would require a re-approval by voters but not an automatic sunset.