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Property tax rates increase for Johnston City schools. See how much homeowners can afford

Homeowners in Johnston could pay more taxes this year after the school district and city both increased their tax rates.

The Johnston City Council on April 15 approved the city budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The budget includes a property tax rate of about $11.44 for every $1,000 of home value, which is an increase of about 58 cents from last year. annual rate of $10.86.

The Johnston Community School District approved its budget April 22 with a property tax rate of about $13.89 for every $1,000 of a home’s value, which is an increase of about 88 cents from last year’s rate of $13.01.

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The new school district rate is still nearly $4.50 lower than it was five years ago, while the city rate remains 21 cents lower from the same period. The school tax rate reached $18.35 in 2019 and fell sharply last year after the district paid off debt for the new high school more than a decade earlier. The city rate in 2019 was $11.65.

Will my property tax bill increase in Johnston?

Property tax bills are calculated as a dollar amount for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. Individual government agencies – specifically the city, school district and county – set their own rates for their share of the total tax bill.

Home values ​​in Polk County have increased by an average of 22%. But the state also lowered the rollback rate — or the percentage of a home’s value that is actually taxed — from about 57% to about 46%.

An individual homeowner’s final tax bill depends on the value of their home and how much it has appreciated over the past year, if at all.

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In addition to the city and school budgets, Polk County passed its budget on April 23, which keeps the tax rate for city taxpayers at $6.77.

In Johnston, the owner of a $300,000 home that has increased in value 20% to $360,000 could see the taxes he pays to the city, schools and county rise from $5,022 to $5,354, an increase from $332 for the year.

Different tax rates apply to a property owner’s bill for Des Moines Area Community College, Des Moines Area Regional Transit and other public agencies. Homeowners who live outside the Johnston City or School District boundaries will see different rate breakdowns, including City of Urbandale residents who are in the Johnston School District.

Why is the tax rate increasing in Johnston?

A school district’s tax levy consists of several components. One of these is the cash reserve, which can help cover costs such as the shortage of special education, English as a second language programs and cash flow.

According to budget information presented at school board meetings, the district levied zero dollars in taxes on its cash reserve in 2023 because it was running up against state limits. State law limits how much taxes school districts can levy on their cash reserves, relative to total expenditures, which can limit the amount of unused money districts have available.

Officials expected the tax rate to increase once the district could start raising taxes on its cash reserve again in 2024.

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Meanwhile, Johnston’s certified resident student enrollment district dropped by about 150 students, reducing state funding. However, the district used a provision in Iowa law to make up the difference through property taxes, raising the rate by 12 cents.

According to state data, the total number of students Johnston served was actually higher than last year due to open enrollment.

The $13.89 rate was the lowest recommended by district staff and remains lower than most comparable districts, according to information submitted to the school board. Board members said the district has been financially responsible in providing services and competing as an employer, while lowering the rate could have consequences such as larger class sizes and lower teacher salaries.

What about the city?

Meanwhile, according to information presented to Johnston City Council, financing challenges include higher costs and pressures from inflation, while new construction from 2023 may not yet be on the tax roll.

Changes in state law intended to help taxpayers also have limited city revenue and financial flexibility.

“This has been a difficult budget year as we face higher costs and inflationary pressures that also impact our residents,” Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld said in a news release. “The budget (for fiscal year 2025) reflects our city’s strong commitment to investing in the future of our community while prioritizing public safety. The budget we approved provides the funding needed to support the high-quality services our residents expect and to meet the demands of our growing community. Overall, the budget balances the needs of our city and ensures fiscal responsibility as we move into the future.”

The city budget includes funding for two new police officers, a new mechanic, a recreation coordinator to support the upcoming Ignit youth sports facility, a northwest sewer expansion, a new fire truck and a new ambulance.

Chris Higgins covers the eastern and northern suburbs for the Register. Reach him out [email protected] or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Property tax rate goes up for Johnston schools and city