Jefferson and Guthrie Counties have joined 95 other counties in Iowa in approving a one percent School Infrastructure Local Option sales tax (SILO). That means just two more counties - Linn and Johnson need to implement the one-per-cent sales tax before the issue of equity in funding can be fully addressed.
Under current state law, the SILO tax is implemented for a period of 10 years at which time the additional one percent sales tax expires. Counties can renew the sales tax every 10 years.
Funds generated by the SILO tax can be used for school facilities, equipment, and property tax relief. Money cannot be spent on staff.
Funding equity would utilize money from the Iowa Legislature to give all state school districts the same amount of money, meaning counties with a lower retail sales base would receive extra money per pupil.
The two remaining counties would need to pass the SILO tax before full-funding equity could be realized among all state school districts, according to the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB).
The IASB is championing a a state-wide SILO tax vote implementing a one percent sales tax and eliminating the local one percent taxes approved by each county. Opponents of SILO have argued that counties with large retail areas have an unfair advantage because more retail sales, and consequently more sales tax, are generated for the school districts in that county only.
A statewide one percent SILO would distribute sales tax proceeds on a per pupil basis, so the smaller school districts would get the same "bang for their buck" as the larger school districts.
It's ironic that proponents of user, consumption taxes -- sales taxes, see the tax as a more "fair" tax, because everyone is treated the same, which is true. The cruel irony of SILO as it is currently set up is that the large counties, which siphon off sales tax dollars from smaller counties can literally build on their advantages by improving their schools using the dollars of folks that don't live in their county.
We hope the Iowa Legislature will take a look at this initiative. Iowa has a long and proud tradition of excellence in education and fair play. SILO isn't fair, or equal, now, but it can easily be repaired.