A one-percent sales tax in Cedar Rapids to support flood recovery projects is set to expire in three years, but Mayor Ron Corbett is pushing to extend it for another 20 years. He says that would give the city enough money to build a comprehensive flood-protection system. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will only recommend the federal government pay to protect the city’s east side, where property values are high enough to meet the Corps’ cost-benefit ratio.
“I think it would be immoral for us just to build protection on the east side and not the west side,” Corbett said. “That would be selling the west side down the river.” The city is still pushing Congress to pay for the west side’s protections as well, but Corbett says an earmark of $350 million for the project is unlikely. He calls the sales tax extension the “easiest” route because it spreads the cost over a long period of time.
“A flood protection system like this will last 50 or 60 years, so it does make some sense that the beneficiaries in the future should help participate,” Corbett said. The city-wide sales tax increase was first instituted after the 2008 flood and nets the city around $18 million a year.
Corbett says the tax extension might help secure needed state grants as well, by showing the city could come up with the required local contributions. If the Cedar Rapids City Council approves, residents could vote on the proposal as early as May.