Legislative Update

Sunday, March 10, 2019
Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids

In 2008, the Legislature created the SAVE Fund to help schools make much-needed investments in crumbling school infrastructure.

SAVE serves as an important tool for schools to make important improvements that ensure modern facilities, safe classrooms, and state of the art technology that enhance students' educational experience.

SAVE is set to expire in 2029. This makes it difficult for schools to secure financing for critical infrastructure projects.

The House passed an extension of SAVE last session, but it did not move forward in the Senate. Extending SAVE is a top priority this session, and we have already begun advancing legislation that would do this through 2050. The bill, House File 546, passed both the Education and Ways and Means committees overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan fashion.

SAVE is important for a number of reasons including:

Resources for school infrastructure

When SAVE was first implemented, schools across the state were falling into disrepair and districts lacked the immediate funding to build new schools to meet the demand of new students. This often led to bond referendums where property taxpayers were asked to pay more for aging infrastructure.

Since the creation of SAVE, the number of bond referendums has decreased dramatically and property tax increases are no longer the only way to finance building improvements.

An extension of the SAVE fund ensures that schools have the resources that they need to update and improve aging facilities for the kids.

Prioritized school safety

Iowans across the state have indicated that school safety must be a priority for legislators to consider this session. We began addressing this topic last session, providing schools with increased flexibility, requiring schools to develop a high-quality emergency response plan, and authorizing SAVE dollars to pay for security upgrades.

We are building off of last year's SAVE legislation to ensure that schools have the resources they need to make schools safe for both students and employees. This legislation also requires that schools prioritize upgrades like secure entrances, security cameras and other safety enhancements, before using SAVE funds on athletic facilities.

Better technology for students

Schools are able to use SAVE funds to make technology improvements in their districts. The days of chalkboards, overhead projectors and A/V carts are long past. Schools need to have the resources necessary to adopt new technology. SAVE helps accomplish that goal.

Many schools have utilized this funding to bring one-to-one learning to their classrooms, where every student is equipped with a laptop or tablet. This brings the power of the internet to our students which brings new ways for our students to research and learn.

SAVE funds can also be used for other technology upgrades that improve the classroom experience like smart boards and digital projectors as well as faster, more reliable internet.

Career readiness and workforce training

Another key priority that a SAVE extension can help address is Iowa's skilled worker shortage.

The legislation being moved in the House includes a provision that will direct $1 million from SAVE each year to help school districts establish career academies. This will result in new and better science labs, computer labs and technical labs in skilled trades for schools.

These academies will help implement Future Ready Iowa by giving students the ability to explore career options that are in high demand in their local area. The academies will also provide students with first-hand job experience that can be translated into a career after graduation.

Career academies will help students gain the skills needed for the careers of tomorrow while also helping local businesses identify and train new workers.

Significant property tax relief

A final aspect of SAVE that is important to many Iowans is the tax relief that it provides to local property taxpayers.

Currently, 2.1 percent of the funds generated from the SAVE tax are devoted to reducing property taxes for local residents. Under this year's legislation, that portion will increase to 12 percent over the next 10 years (a 470 percent increase), resulting in more than $120 million in annual property tax relief at full implementation. This is a major improvement compared to the current rate.

House Republicans are always looking for ways to address the priorities of Iowans while also giving hard-working taxpayers a seat at the table.

An extension of SAVE demonstrates House Republican's clear commitment to supporting Iowa's schools. This is in addition to the $90 million in new funding that was signed into law earlier this session and the unprecedented flexibility that House Republicans have provided to local districts over the last several years.

There are many different buckets of money by which education is funded. SAVE is an important mechanism to provide infrastructure for our schools and ease the burden on the rest of the budget.