Backfill Continues to be Contentious Topic around Iowa

April 18, 2018 5:35 am

Iowa state legislature

The question of the replacement claims to cities, counties, and schools, commonly referred to as “the backfill,” continues to be a hot button issue around the state.

The State Legislature has expressed a desire to do away with it to help them make up budget shortfalls. While there has been some discussion of doing away with the backfill for fiscal year 2019, State Senator Jake Chapman (R-District 10) says they won’t touch it until 2020 because cities, schools, and counties have already certified their 2019 budgets. Chapman says the backfill is on the chopping block for next year, but he assures people it would be rolled back with care. “We can look at communities who have seen growth and starting phasing them out over a shorter period of time. And those who haven’t seen growth, we can phase out over a longer period of time.”

Chapman adds, he would not support legislation to roll back the backfill during the current session. While that likely comes as a relief to many, there’s still a question of the long term effects of doing away with the backfill. Perry Superintendent Clark Wicks says it’s something that will be felt by taxpayers everywhere. He emphasizes the Perry School District is trying to lower its tax levy, which is currently the highest in the state, and with no backfill it would just get worse. “It’s a big issue, because for Perry Schools if the legislature would pass where we do not get this backfill, that’s going to mean — for the next four years — it will increase $0.10 per year. It means close to about $140,000 for the Perry Schools. So it’s a big deal.”

State legislators have maintained that the backfill was never meant to last indefinitely. Those who receive it have countered that it was promised for at least 10 years, and it’s only been five. In light of the issue, many cities and schools, including Perry, have submitted formal resolutions to the state voicing their opposition to the potential backfill elimination. Wicks encourages the public to reach out to legislators to give their opinions on the backfill, and Chapman says he welcomes conversations with his constituents.

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