The mayor of Cedar Rapids says his community will have to find another way to pay for flood protection measures, and property taxes are the most likely source.
The city must come up with about $35 million dollars in funds to match the $65 million in federal funds set aside for the project. This past Tuesday Cedar Rapids area voters defeated a proposal that would have raised the local option sales tax in Cedar Rapids to come up with the city’s share. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett notes this is the second try on the local option sales tax for flood-related projects.
“You know, it’s a dead horse and I’m just not going to beat it anymore,” Corbett says.
The city has few options for raising additional taxes, according to Corbett. The city of Cedar Rapids charges a one percent “franchise” tax on gas and electric.
“Towns like Des Moines are at five percent, so that possibly could be an option but it’s not a really good option for Cedar Rapids because we’re so heavy industrial and the usage of energy is a big issue when it comes to our businesses and to raise that franchise tax, you know, puts an undue burden and makes us uncompetitive, so that’s not a good options for us,” Corbett says. “Actually property taxes isn’t a good option for us.”
There is one other possible option. A bill pending in the Iowa House would let cities apply for up to $15 million in state money to finance flood mitigation projects.
“A financing mechanism to help local governments that want to build levee systems or repair levee systems,” Corbett says. “So far, the bill passed the Senate 50-0 and passed the House committee with a strong, bipartisan vote. We still hope we can move that forward because we’re still going to need matching money for the east side (of the Cedar River) — which is the Corps of Engineers project — of at least $35-40 million.”
Corbett and Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan are the guests on this weekend’s edition of “Iowa Press” on Iowa Public Television.