Review the actual numbers

Ben Fletcher


There has been much public discussion of the Marshalltown city budget and tax rates recently. I would like to add some information to that discussion.

When compared to Iowa cities with populations between 15,000 and 60,000, the city of Marshalltown’s total expenses per capita are the lowest. The total amount of property tax revenue brought in by the city is among the lowest of the group and the amount of property tax revenue per capita is the lowest. Property tax rates in Marshalltown ($15.3) are not as low as some other cities due to our smaller tax base. However, the rates are closer to the median ($13.5) than the maximum ($21.4). Debt service payments as a ratio of taxable value and on a per capita basis are also below the median.

All in all, it seems our city has taxed, spent, and borrowed less than other cities in Iowa. This becomes especially apparent when Marshalltown’s budget is compared with a peer group of cities with a similar size and tax base. The Marshalltown city property tax rate is below the median of this peer group ($16.0).

It is understandable to desire lower tax rates and it is appropriate to hold our city leaders accountable. However, I do not believe it is warranted to claim our elected council or professional staff have been irresponsible in spending or that our city’s debt or tax rates are unreasonable.

The budget data is publicly available on the Iowa Department of Management’s website ( FY18 budgets were used which was the latest available statewide information. The peer group of cities included Burlington, Clinton, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Muscatine, Newton and Ottumwa.