Local Option Sales & Services Tax

LOSST Event Image 2

Welcome to the information page for Urbandale’s August 6, 2019 election on the Local Option Sales and Services Tax! We know that you may have questions about this election, what the Local Option Sales and Services tax is, and how it would impact Urbandale residents. To help you learn more about LOSST we put together an educational brochure that you can view and also listed some of the most commonly asked questions below. If you have a question that is not answered below, please contact us.

Basics on the Local Option Sales & Services Tax

The Iowa sales tax rate is 6% statewide and is deposited into the general fund of the state (Iowa Code 423.2A). The Local Option Sales and Services Tax (LOSST) is an additional 1% sales tax and the revenue generated is distributed to each participating city based on a state-defined formula. The way LOSST revenue is spent is determined by the elected officials in each jurisdiction.

In Urbandale, the Council has determined that at least 50% of the LOSST revenue would be used for property tax relief and the rest of the funds would be used for infrastructure and quality of life projects[1] like improvements to streets, storm sewers, parks, trails, public facilities and equipment. Funds could also be used for public safety, economic development and any other lawful purpose determined by the Council.

The Iowa Department of Revenue has a very detailed FAQ page that answers many technical questions about the Local Option Sales Tax.

The LOSST is approved by voters at the city or county level and only collected on items that are already subject to sales tax as determined by the State of Iowa.

LOSST in Polk County

The LOSST was recently approved in the cities of Alleman, Altoona, Des Moines, Pleasant Hill, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights. Regardless of where you live, if you purchase a taxable product, service, food or drink in a jurisdiction with the Local Option Sales Tax, you will pay the additional 1% tax.

Voters in the Polk County portion of Urbandale have the opportunity to vote on a 1% LOSST, which would result in a 7% sales tax rate in the City of Urbandale.  The Dallas County portion of Urbandale has already passed the additional 1% LOSST.

Other Polk County cities in addition to Urbandale will also be voting on the LOSST on August 6. Those cities are: Bondurant, Clive, Grimes and Johnston. More information is available about the voting on the County Auditor’s website.

More than 95% of Iowa communities have LOSST and every year, visitors to Polk County would generate additional LOSST revenue for Urbandale.

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Important Dates

Join us at the Urbandale Public Library for an informational public forum on Saturday, August 3 at 9:30 AM. We've set up this forum to help answer questions about LOSST and how it would impact Urbandale residents.

Voting is on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. LOSST election voting is open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The voting location for Urbandale residents in Polk County can be found on the voter information website.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is the Local Option Sales Tax appearing on the ballot?

With the  approval of LOSST in the cities of Des Moines, West Des Moines, Altoona, Windsor Heights, Pleasant Hill and Alleman in March 2019, numerous remaining City Councils in Polk County have supported placing the LOSST measure on the ballot. The LOSST must be approved by voters. Voters in the Dallas County portion of Urbandale already approved LOSST in November 2017. In fact, LOSST is approved county-wide in Dallas County, including unincorporated areas.

2. What language will appear on the ballot?

Summary: To authorize imposition of a local sales and services tax in the City of Urbandale, Iowa at the rate of one percent (1 %) to be effective January 1, 2020.

Revenues from the sales and services tax shall be allocated as follows:

No less than fifty percent (50%) for Property Tax Relief.

The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are:

Fifty percent (50%) for Capital Improvement Projects which may include, but is not limited to, public facilities, street improvements, park and trail improvements, storm water improvements, and related debt service, public safety, economic development, equipment and any lawful purpose of the City of Urbandale. All expenditures will be subject to regular audit, public comment and review.

The sample ballot and official publication are available on the County Auditor’s website.

3. Are there any other questions on this August ballot?


4. Does this have to pass in every city or just county-wide?

At one time the contiguous cities of the Polk County were required by state law to vote together as a block and were required to approve LOSST together for it to be implemented in the Polk County portions of these cities. However, cities now vote individually.

5. Who can participate in the election?

Any eligible voter in the Polk County portion of Urbandale may participate on or before August 6th.

6. When is the election and where do I vote?

Election Day Tuesday, August 6th, 2019. Polls are open from 7:00am to 8:00pm. Visit the voter information website for more information.

7. Can I vote early, or at home in this election, or at a satellite location?

You can request an absentee ballot at the absentee voting website, however with the election quickly approaching—and to ensure your ballot/vote is counted—you can vote early in-person at the Polk County Election Office, located in the George Paletta Building (120 2nd Avenue) in Des Moines. Please reference the voter information website for more information about voting.

8. Does it require support of greater than 50% to pass?

Yes. For Urbandale, the Polk County LOSST referendum requires support of 50% plus one vote of the votes cast in order to pass.

9. Will this vote impact my property taxes?

This vote will not increase your property taxes, but would provide property tax relief as stated in the ballot language.

10. Who pays the additional sales tax?

The Local Option Sales Tax is paid based on point of delivery retail sales in Polk County. That means a resident of Polk County, or any visitor from outside the area, would pay this tax at retail establishments in Polk County. Examples include purchases (excluding vehicles), services such as electrical or plumbing work, and delivery of goods such as furniture.

11. Do any other communities in Iowa have a Local Option Sales Tax?

Yes, almost all of the communities in Iowa have a Local Option Sales Tax. This means Polk County residents are already paying Local Option Sales Tax in many communities that they visit across the state.

12. Has this issue been on the ballot before in Polk County?


13. Will the Local Option Sales Tax increase only be paid by Polk County residents?

No. Any visitor to Polk County retail and service businesses that charge sales tax would also be charged the 1% Local Option Sales Tax if approved. Currently, Urbandale residents pay a Local Option Sales Tax when visiting many other Iowa cities, including Des Moines and West Des Moines.

14. Why is the Dallas County portion of Urbandale not voting on Local Option Sales Tax?

Dallas County voters already passed Local Option Sales & Services Tax and therefore they are not voting on this again. The revenue raised by the Dallas County portion of Urbandale LOSST is being used to fully pay for the third Urbandale Fire Station #43, avoiding a property tax increase of sixteen cents citywide.

15. If approved, when would the Local Option Sales Tax be implemented?

If approved, the Local Option Sales Tax would become effective on January 1, 2020.

16. If approved, what projects can be completed with LOSST revenue?

LOSST funds can quickly and easily be applied to existing City debt. This would allow Urbandale to avoid paying unnecessary interest—saving money and freeing funds for other projects. Over the last five years, Urbandale has averaged an annual increase of 16 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value. One action the City Council can take is to pay off existing city debt with LOSST revenue received in the first half of 2020, using 100% of those funds for property tax relief by immediately decreasing the property tax rate by 36 cents beginning July 1, 2020. You can view more project ideas in this brochure.

17. Does LOSST ever go away, can LOSST be repealed?

Yes. To repeal the tax, an election may be called and held in the same manner and under the same conditions as the election which approved the tax. However, only qualified voters of the areas of the county where the tax has been imposed can vote. The tax cannot be repealed before it has been in effect for one year.

The county board of supervisors can, upon its own motion, repeal the local option tax in any unincorporated area of the county where the tax is imposed. For any municipality, the county board of supervisors must, upon receipt of a motion of the governing body of the municipality, repeal the local option tax within that municipality. The tax can be repealed within a municipality which is contiguous to other municipalities.

18. Have other organizations taken a position on LOSST?

Yes. The Urbandale Chamber of Commerce, the Urbandale Police Protective and Benevolent Association, the Des Moines Association of Professional Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO, Local 4, and the Police Union Teamsters Local #238 support the LOSST. The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa has not endorsed or opposed the LOSST, but has provided information and commentary on the subject.