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Research and Budget

Use the resources below to learn more about how the City of Des Moines budgeting process works and how each of the City's funds are allocated.

The City Manager and Finance Director hosted a webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 22 to talk through the following topics and address written questions. Watch the recording from that webinar here and/or download the presentation here.

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Annual Budget Timeline

Starting in late July, the Finance Department updates its projections based on each department’s expenditure history, individual project costs, inflation factors, revenues and salaries.

Through January, the Finance Department works with each department and the City Manager’s Office to compile an operating budget and the capital improvement program budget.

In February, City Council holds a single work session devoted to discussing a variety of budget topics for the upcoming fiscal year.

In February and March, City Council holds public hearings to set a cap on property tax revenue, discuss the proposed budgets and adopt the final budgets.

The State of Iowa requires a one-year budget be adopted and submitted by March 31 of each year.

Property Tax Levy

Your annual property tax bill is made up of many tax rates, divided up between the Des Moines Public School District, City of Des Moines, Polk County, Broadlawns Medical Center and a category called Other – which includes DART,   DMACC and the State of Iowa.

Now thanks to the Local Option Sales Tax that went into effect in July of 2019, the City of Des Moines – as promised – reduced its tax rate two straight years.

Fiscal YearCity of Des Moines property tax levy rate
per $1,000 of taxable value
FY2018 $17.04
FY2019 $17.24
FY2020
(with Local Option)
$16.64
FY2021
(with Local Option)
$16.61

While that’s good news, it’s not the entire story. The City of Des Moines makes up roughly just one-third of this equation (35% of your total bill), so your combined tax rate from year to year might not reflect the tax decrease you got from the City.

If you see an increase on your bill despite the City of Des Moines reduction, it could be another entity on your bill increased their rate, or there was an increase in the annual state percentage that determines the taxable value of your house, or your Polk County property tax assessment went up. These are all factors that all go into your property tax statement, which the City of Des Moines does not control.

Again, Des Moines accounts for only one-third of it. And over the past couple of years, our portion of your bill has gone down.

Local Option

In March 2019, voters overwhelmingly approved a one-cent Local Option Sales & Services Tax to be used for property tax relief, infrastructure upgrades, public safety enhancements and neighborhood improvements. 

The first year of numbers are in and Local Option revenue exceeded expectations in Fiscal Year 2020, despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A strong first 8 months of revenue helped the Local Option Sales Tax bring in over $38 million and minimize the impact of COVID-19 on FY2020 results.

As required by state law, half of the funds raised by the Local Option were used to provide property tax relief in the form of a $0.60 levy rate reduction. 

The rest of the funds raised went to important street improvements and flood prevention projects across the city, neighborhood improvements like Blitz on Blight, special investment districts and a property improvement program. 

Local Option funds were also used to improve public safety through hiring of additional firefighters as well as funding a mental health and mobile crisis program through the Des Moines Police Department.

The financial reserve portion of the Local Option revenue is designed to guarantee that the City can continue to deliver on the priorities identified by Local Option voters. While we anticipate taking a hit on Local Option revenue for FY2021, reserves from this year will help protect the City’s continued investment in the priorities that Des Moines residents have asked for.

Funds/Budget Overview

The Des Moines City budget is determined by a few revenue sources. The majority of the City’s revenue comes from property taxes. Other significant portions are fees and service charges, hotel & motel taxes, and franchise fees.

Like everyone, the City has been negatively affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.  We have seen reduced revenues across the City in some of these key areas.  The City is striving to maintain the same high level of service our residents expect by minimizing the impact to departmental operations.

The City Finance Department evaluates our revenue sources to shape the City of Des Moines general fund, which supports day-to-day operations of City services and departments, but does not finance capitol, long-term purchases or projects.

62% of the overall general fund budget was allocated to public safety with 39% going towards the Des Moines Police Department and 23% funding the Fire Department in fiscal year 2020. This portion of the general fund was used to employ 372 sworn police officers and 283 sworn firefighters. Des Moines Police Officers responded over 204,000 police service calls in the year to keep our community safe. That’s over 559 calls a day! 

Meanwhile the Fire Department responded to over 27,000 emergency calls over the year and 70% of those calls are EMS runs involving life-threatening situations. 

Administrative Services support our City programs, services and departments, and account for 18% of the general fund budget. 

The Parks and Recreation Department accounts for the next slice of the pie. The Parks Department was responsible for 7% of the general fund budget to oversee over 4,000 acres of City land and its award-winning network of 75 City parks and 67 miles of trails.

The Des Moines Public Library system operates six branches and manages a catalogue of 482,786 books and other digital resources with its 5% of the Des Moines general fund. 

Neighborhood Services accounts for another 5% of the general fund budget, which goes to supportive services relating to income and housing assistance, and investment and implementation of improvements to Des Moines neighborhoods. 

3% of the Des Moines general fund budget goes to the Engineering Department to design and manage construction projects, as well as maintaining critical city infrastructure that keeps our City traffic moving. 

Roughly one percent of the general fund budget finances the Civil and Human Rights Department that maximizes its budget to advance justice, promote equality and ensure the protection of human rights for all people in Des Moines. This department recently produced an Emmy-award winning documentary about its education and outreach efforts and is the highest funded Civil and Human Rights Department in the State of Iowa. 

The final portion of the general fund budget was about 1% which covered administration of the Public Works Department, which was responsible for trash collection and keeping Des Moines roads and public property safe and clean. The rest of the Public Works budget is financed by non-general fund revenues.


About the Research and Budget Office

The Research and Budget Office:

  • Prepares the City's Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program Budget
  • Performs fiscal analyses of City operations, 
  • And provides research and analysis support on issues that impact the City.

Contact Information

  • Hours: Monday through Friday - 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Phone: (515) 283-4540
  • FAX: (515) 237-1668
  • Email: NJSchaul@dmgov.org
Staff Title Areas of Support Email Phone
Joe Brandstatter Deputy Finance Director Police, Civil and Human Rights jwbrandstatter@dmgov.org (515)-283-1440
Jessica Butler Senior Budget Analyst CIP Oversight, City Manager, Mayor and Council, Parks and Recreation, Publications jbutler@dmgov.org (515)-283-4170
Jay Carlson Management Analyst Development Services, Engineering, Fleet Services,  Human Resources jecarlson@dmgov.org (515)-283-4512
Ian Korpel Management Analyst Fire Department, Information Technology, City Clerk, Finance, Library ivkorpel@dmgov.org
Michael Goers Budget Analyst Housing Services, Legal, Neighborhood Services, Public Works mrgoers@dmgov.org (515)-283-4068