Cedar Rapids voters rejected a plan Tuesday that would’ve generated $200-million to build a flood protection system. The measure failed by about 600 votes and would have extended a local option sales tax another decade. Iowa’s second-largest city was inundated by a historic flood four years ago. Now, Mayor Ron Corbett says it’s not clear what options Cedar Rapids has left.
“It isn’t a viable option for us to raise property taxes,” Mayor Corbett says. “The sales tax was the way to go. You have to accept what the voters have said now: no. Do you read that as, we don’t want flood protection? You almost have to read it that way, because they’re certainly not saying, raise our property taxes to pay for flood protection.”
Cedar Rapids voters rejected a similar measure last May. The latest ballot would have extended a penny sales tax ten years beyond 2014 to raise the money to build the floodwalls. Without that local funding, Corbett says they also can’t get state or federal assistance for flood walls.
“It doesn’t seem feasible, because you know we needed to have some kind of local match,” Corbett says. “The only other option we would have is property taxes, and I can’t imagine that people are going to be more receptive to seeing their property taxes go up to pay for flood protection, since they just defeated the sales tax.”
The penny sales tax would have raised funds over a decade to buy flood walls for both sides of the Cedar River, assuming state and federal assistance also came through. This vote also threatens to derail a bill at the statehouse to give local communities funding for flood protection.