116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is recommending the next mayor champion an extension of a local-option sales tax to help pay for flood protection.
Corbett said he's tried every approach he can imagine to shake loose federal aid. Now, as his days in office near an end and federal aid remains in limbo, it will fall to the next mayor to devise a plan, he said.
'I think as the next mayor takes over in January 2018, the top issue will be how to come up with local financing for flood protection,” he said. 'They could craft some plan, maybe some revenue sharing plan that splits streets and flood protection in the future.”
Sales tax is fairer than property taxes to pay for it because everybody that comes to Cedar Rapids, such as people who work here, would contribute, he said.
Voters approved a 10-year, 1 cent local-option sales tax for street repairs in 2013. He said if local leaders could come to a consensus, they could ask voters to extend the tax and redefine the use such that half goes to street repairs and the other half goes to flood protection.
The most recent estimate from the city pegs the total 20-year build out of a flood control system at $700 to $725 million, according to Rob Davis, the city's flood control manager. Thus far, the city has been building the system in a piecemeal way, addressing lowest lying areas first.
The city estimates $110 million will come from a local match, $11.5 million from federal Community Development Block Grants for disaster relief, and $267 million over 20 years from the state through the Growth Reinvestment Initiative, which leverages increases in sales tax revenue. The city had been counting on $78 million from the Army Corps of Engineers, which was authorized by Congress in 2014 and 2016, but never allocated.
Including the missing federal piece, Cedar Rapids is $311.5 million to $336.5 million short, based on city figures.
Voters twice rejected a local-option sales tax for flood protection in 2011 and 2012, but given the historic proportions of the 2016 flood, Corbett said voters may think differently if asked again.
'I think the 2016 flood was really a change of attitude for people in the community,” he said.
In August 2016, City Council asked city staff to explore alternatives to federal funding to pay for a flood protection system, including seeking state revenue more quickly to reduce inflationary costs; redirecting the city budget for parks upgrades, building repairs and new equipment to flood protection; a public-private partnership to direct money to the flood system rather than insurance; and a self-taxing district along the river in which proceeds go back to flood protection.
At the time, staff said they would assemble a team and report back with strategies 'over the next several months,” but no plans have been presented.
l Comments: (319) 339-3177; email@example.com
Flood protection budget
The total budget estimate for flood protection in Cedar Rapids has reached $700 to $725 million due to inclusion of an Eighth Avenue Bridge replacement and upgrades to pump stations. Here is a budget breakdown:
- $78 million - Federal Army Corps funding (approved, but not yet appropriated).
- $267 million - State Growth Reinvestment Initiative funding, which allows Cedar Rapids to recoup growth in sales tax proceeds.
- $110 million - City match.
- $11.5 million - Federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Grant.
- $233.5 million to 258.5 million - Funding gap.