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    September 11, 2019

    Retirement Systems in Iowa Remain Strong; IPERS Outperforms Expectations
    State Park Volunteer Day September 28th
    Property Taxes Due September 30th
    Trump Trade Conflict Adding to Slow Economic Growth
    High School Financial Literacy Requirements
    Healthy Iowans Progress Report Sees Mixed Results
    State Run, Iowa Online Learning will End in Spring 2020


    Retirement Systems in Iowa Remain Strong; IPERS Outperforms Expectations

    Protecting and maintaining a strong retirement plan for our teachers, police officers, and nurses is vital for a strong economy in Iowa. Making sure the plan is working and secure is not only important for the members of the plan, but also provides $3.3 billion in economic output in Iowa.

    A higher than assumed end of the year return rate was recently announced by the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS). The investments had a return rate of 8.35% for the previous fiscal year outperforming the assumed rate of 7%. The rate of return of 8.35% also surpassed last year’s rate of 7.97%.

    The return on investments represents 70% of the payments of benefits made by IPERS. The payments are made by the IPERS trust fund, which can only be used for the sole benefit of IPERS members. In 2018, over 86% of retirement benefits made stayed in the state, and $1.8 billion was paid out to Iowans. Public retirement systems have total economic impact of $3.3 billion in the state of Iowa.

    IPERS has approximately 360,000 members with a trust fund balance of over $30 billion. It should be the priority of the legislature to protect and strengthen these plans and to ensure that all Iowans have access to a strong, secure retirement.


    State Park Volunteer Day September 28th

    Join the annual statewide volunteer day at Iowa’s state parks on September 28th at one of Iowa’s participating state parks. Hosted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), 40 state parks will have projects ready for volunteers including picking up litter, painting, clearing trails, removing trees, planting trees, and building picnic tables. People of all ages are encouraged to participate.

    Next year, in 2020, the DNR will be celebrating 100 years of Iowa state parks. This year’s volunteer day is in preparation of the celebratory anniversary. To find a park near you to volunteer at, visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/volunteer.


    Property Taxes Due September 30th

    Property taxes are due at your local county treasurer by the end of this month. Installments must be paid by Monday, September 30th, to avoid penalties.

    Property taxes are assessed mostly on land, building, structures, and other improvements on the land. Improvements can include buildings, fences, and paving. The six classes of property assessed in Iowa are residential, agricultural, multi-residential, commercial, industrial, and utilities and railroads. Taxes are due on the property typically twice per year on September 30th and March 31st annually.

    Property tax is primarily assessed and collected by local governments, like counties and cities. Taxes collected by these local governments are then used by the local government for things like parks, local streets, and hospitals. Property taxes are also a primary funding source for K-12 schools.

    Additional information, including how to pay your property taxes, can be found at http://www.iowatreasurers.org.


    Trump Trade Conflict Adding to Slow Economic Growth

    The damage caused by the Trump Administration’s trade war continues to mount, with the Mid-America Business Conditions Index predicting slow to negative economic growth over the coming months.

    The survey, a leading economic indicator for the nine-state region stretching from Minnesota to Arkansas, compiles indexes on a range of 0 to 100, with ratings above 50 indicating growth. The August survey dropped below 50, its lowest number in 42 months. Additionally, the business confidence index dropped to a 35 month low.

    Trade numbers were down for both export orders and imports in the August survey. Two-thirds of the supply managers who responded in August indicated that the trade war and tariffs were harming their companies.

    President Trump’s trade war, now entering its 20th month, has been particularly hard on Iowa, with China now stopping all agriculture imports from the U.S.


    High School Financial Literacy Requirements

    In 2018, the Iowa Legislature prescribed a high school financial literacy course curriculum, and required the course to be taken in order to graduate. Applying to the class of 2020, it created scheduling conflicts for students and many had to scramble and make course corrections.

    The bill, Senate File 139, pushed back the graduation requirement starting with the class of 2021. This would mean that the incoming classes for the 2019-20 school year of high school freshman, sophomores, and juniors would have to meet the graduation requirement of a financial literacy course, and its requirements before they graduate.

    Now, the Iowa Department of Education has provided guidance to schools on the required course requirements, what area students can earn credit, and the appropriate teacher endorsements. There is no stipulation as to when a high school student needs to take the course; it just needs to be taken before graduation.

    Department of Education updated financial literacy guidelines can be found here.


    Healthy Iowans Progress Report Sees Mixed Results

    The 2019 Healthy Iowans Progress Report was released by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) seeing some positive changes including, increased rates of adolescent immunizations, a decrease in opioid-related deaths, reduced cancer-related deaths, and a decline in underage drinking.

    However the report also highlighted some negative trends occurring in the state. First, there has been a significant increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with gonorrhea rates spiking. Also, suicide deaths among teens from ages 15-19 is now 35% higher than the national average rate. Finally, adults in Iowa have reported an increase in mental health issues, with low-income Iowans reporting the largest increase from 19% to 22%.

    The Healthy Iowans Progress Report is created through a partnership with almost 100 private and public groups who strive to make Iowa a place where everyone has an opportunity to live a healthier, more productive life. The full report can be found here.


    State Run, Iowa Online Learning will End in Spring 2020

    Iowa Learning Online (ILO), the Iowa Department of Education (DE’s) initiative for high-quality online learning opportunities, will be available through spring semester of the 2019-20 school year. ILO will no longer be able to provide courses after the 2019-20 school year because there is no long-term, sustainable funding source for operating the program. The current education budget provides no additional funding for the program. School districts will now either need to create their own online classes or work with an approved private provider. In 2018, SF 475 drastically expanded the ability for districts to use an online, out-of-state, private, and for-profit providers funded through Iowa’s school aid system.

    Study after study, including ones on Iowa’s own online learning pilot programs offered at the CAM and Clayton Ridge school districts, have shown online learning to be less adequate than classroom education. While they may be necessary for some home-bound students with medical conditions, or to supplement course offerings not offered at a student’s regular school, the student achievement suffers. Some classes, like technical or science courses with lab requirements cannot offer the same learning experience.

    The Legislature in 2020 could revisit funding for ILO to continue it for the 2020-21 school year. Legislative Democrats were able to push for, and have adopted in SF 475, Iowa licensed teacher requirements for online instructors. Schools and private providers are also prohibited from providing incentives or rebates for parents to enroll in online education, and the DE Director is required to maintain a list of approved private providers.