CORONAVIRUS

Cedar Rapids adopts $637 million budget, knowing it likely will change because of coronavirus

The Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday adopted a $637 million spending plan for fiscal 2021, knowing the plan will lik
The Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday adopted a $637 million spending plan for fiscal 2021, knowing the plan will likely have to evolve, given the unknowns associated with the coronavirus impact. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — While the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday approved a $637 million budget for fiscal 2021, knowing full well it may be revisiting that plan throughout the year as the coronavirus impacts on city revenues and expenses become known.

Mayor Brad Hart said budget changes “will be dependent on how much recovery we get from the federal and state government. There’s still work to be done.”

City Finance Director Casey Drew said the city is applying for grants to assist with the costs incurred from the coronavirus pandemic.

If eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city could be reimbursed for 75 percent of its costs from the federal government and 10 percent from the state, leaving 15 percent to the city to cover.

“Some of this stuff still is evolving and seems to change week to week,” he said.

City Council member Ashley Vanorny complimented Drew, saying other cities have a much higher debt ratio than Cedar Rapids does and will face greater challenges.

“We can’t always plan for pandemics or emergencies,” Vanorny said.

The council met via the Zoom virtual platform, with the meeting streamed on Facebook Live.

The city’s $637 million spending plan, which takes effect July 1, is up 12 percent, or $70 million from the current fiscal year budget of $567 million.

The city’s general fund, supported by property tax revenue, is up 4 percent to $140 million.

The budget includes money to add evening hours to the public transit system.

The city plans to spend $904,000 to add weeknight service to all fixed-route bus routes, running an additional two hours until about 8:30 p.m.

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The overall property tax levy increases 22 cents for the second straight year, up to $15.66 per $1,000 in property value. The increase provides $30 million to use for flood control as part of a 10-year financing strategy.

Even with the increase, city officials said, the city’s levy remains lower than those in Council Bluffs, Waterloo, Des Moines, Davenport, Iowa City and Sioux City, though it will be higher than the tax rate in Dubuque and Ames.

Because of the residential property tax rollback set by the state — at 55.07 percent — homeowners may see a decrease in their property tax payments. The rollback determines the percent of assessed valuation that is taxed.

A home assessed at $150,000, assuming its value holds steady, would pay $25 less in city property taxes to support this budget, officials said.

Commercial and industrial properties have different variables, so a property valued at $1 million could see an increase of $198, or 1.43 percent, over the year, according to the city.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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