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Explaining your property tax bill increase

As a Des Moines homeowner, you recently received your property tax statement and likely noticed a slight increase. This generated questions to City Council and staff, so we wanted to provide a clearer understanding of this change.

If you think of your annual property tax bill as a pie graph, it's made up of many slices (or tax rates). Those tax rates in 2019 include the Des Moines Public School District (18.6), the City of Des Moines (17.24), Polk County (7.6), Broadlawns Medical Center (2.8) and others (1.6).

Thanks to the Local Option Sales Tax approved last spring by Des Moines voters, the City of Des Moines provided property tax relief by reducing its rate by three and a half percent. All of the other tax rates mostly remained flat.

Because the City of Des Moines makes up roughly just one-third of this equation, your combined tax rate from year to year came down only slightly. So you're probably asking, "If the rate came down, why did my recent tax bill still go up?"

It's because of a hike in your home's taxable value resulting from the rollback rate. The rollback is a percentage adjusted each year depending on Iowa's economy, intended to level out the economic highs and lows.

From 2019 to 2020, a higher rollback rate was applied to your property's assessed value and resulted in a slightly higher taxable value (the amount you actually pay tax on).

For example, here's how that breaks down for a $100,000 property:

  FY2019   FY2020
 Assessed Value (example)  $100,000  $100,000
 Rollback Rate (%)  55.6209  56.9180
 Taxable Value  $55,621  $56,918
 Combined Tax Rate (per $1,000)  47.82861  47.21727
 Annual Property Tax Bill  $2,660  $2,688

That slight increase in your overall taxable value driven by an increase in the rollback rate is what's behind the increase you see in your latest annual property tax bill.