Percentages set for how proposed conservation bonds would be allocated

Linn County supervisors stop short of including information in ballot language

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CEDAR RAPIDS — In an attempt to ensure accountability and secure enough votes to pass the measure, the Linn County Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution establishing a distribution plan for a proposed $40 million conservation bond.

The five-member board on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution establishing percentages — 55 percent for water quality and land protection, 30 percent for parks and 15 percent for trails — for the proposed 20-year Linn County Water and Land Legacy bond.

The resolution mirrors a measure passed by the Linn County Conservation Board on Aug. 22.

The resolution falls short of what some in the county, including Auditor Joel Miller, have called for. Miller argues the percentages should also be included in the official ballot language voters are to see.

A list of potential bond projects, noting 30 water, park and trail projects has been developed.

If the bond is approved, the Conservation Board would identify projects and manage bond funds, with the Board of Supervisors giving final approval when issuing bonds.

A public survey earlier this year found 63 percent of Linn County respondents would support such a bond. Additionally, master planning efforts in previous years mirrors several water quality measures proposed in the bond’s project list.

County officials estimate the bond to cost the average homeowner an extra $27 a year.

Current ballot language indicates that funds raised by the bond sale would be used to protect water sources, acquire land for natural floodwater storage and improve water quality through parks, trails and natural area projects.

County conservation staff say money raised from the bond sales could leverage more revenue from federal and state grants.

If the referendum passes, Linn County’s would be only the third conservation bond in the state, along with Johnson and Polk counties, officials said.

In 2008, Johnson County voters passed a similar conservation bond issue — of up to $20 million — with a narrow 61 percent approval.

Of the $5.6 million of bond funds spent so far, another $4.7 million has been leveraged from grants.

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