116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Will Cedar Rapids voters support the city “Paving for More Progress?”
When voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 2 election, they will answer that question, now that the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday set the date for a vote on the measure to extend the 1-cent local-option sales tax to fund street work.
Extension of the measure would allow the city to continue its Paving for Progress street-repair program. The tax revenue has solely funded road work since it took effect in 2014, and would continue to do so if voters support its continuation. The tax is currently slated to expire in 2024.
City leaders from Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Fairfax and Linn County in May announced they would advocate for the extension of the existing 1-cent sales tax through 2034. Voters in the five contiguous cities must agree to the Nov. 2 ballot question if the tax — which brought the local sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent — is to be extended. Voters in the unincorporated area can decide independently.
“It's important to get this on the ballot now because we plan for these projects, sometimes years out, so we need to know that we'll have the funding that we've had in the last eight years of going forward after the 10 years,” Mayor Brad Hart said.
Council member Ann Poe, providing an update on Cedar Rapids’ “Paving for More Progress” campaign to rally support for the tax’s extension, said approximately $122 million has been invested across more than 200 projects to improve more than 60 linear miles of roadway.
To date, Poe said 70 percent of those completed projects have been in residential areas, and the rest have been on arterial streets.
The campaign committee so far has raised $181,000, Poe said, with $205,000 committed toward a request for proposals process to seek marketing services. The committee will meet to review proposals Friday and later announce the selected firm.
Through those marketing efforts, officials will share information with the community about the importance of continuing the tax to continue to improve Cedar Rapids roadways, Poe said. That includes buying advertising and making slogans, for example.
“There's some great partnerships throughout the community with a number of organizations, and that will be highlighted in the future,” Poe said.
Council member Scott Olson said that for the first time in decades, the city is seeing money invested into the residential areas and not just into the main streets because of the available local-option sales tax revenue. The city previously borrowed to pay for projects, resulting in interest costs for taxpayers.
“There's no interest payments, and people aren't paying for 20 years’ interest,” Olson said. “ Everything's paid for with cash.”
The public information campaign to secure support for the measure will be key to increasing understanding of all the work the program has accomplished so far, Olson said.
“It's important for people to see the results and see that it is working, and that this Paving for Progress is a model for other cities in the country that are trying to do the same thing that we're doing that have older streets,” Olson said. “And we have a long ways to go. We have 650 miles of streets. We've not touched anywhere close to all that need it, and so hopefully we continue that.”
So far, Marion also has approved the measure’s placement on the Nov. 2 ballot. This week, Linn County plans to set the vote for unincorporated areas and Fairfax also anticipates setting the date for its voters. Hiawatha and Robins expect to consider it later this month.
In Cedar Rapids, the measure would be on the ballot along with five City Council seats, including the mayoral race. The county referendum to authorize gambling in Linn County also is headed toward placement on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Gage Miskimen contributed to this article
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