116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Government & Politics / Local Government
Linn County supervisors move forward with resiliency coordinator role after budget woes stalled hiring
Beyond fiscal 2024, permanent funding will need to be identified for Sustainability Department role aimed at boosting disaster resiliency
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County will soon look to recruit a resiliency coordinator to strengthen outreach to marginalized communities and boost disaster preparedness, resolving a monthslong stalemate to secure funding to hire for the role.
The three-member Linn County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Wednesday to create the role within the county’s Sustainability Department. The vote follows a decision earlier this year to not use COVID-19 relief dollars to fund the position.
Supervisors Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat, and Louie Zumbach, a Republican, in January voted to keep federal American Rescue Plan Act money with the Sustainability Department but barred it from being used to hire a new employee.
“For a community that's experienced as many disasters as we have in such a short period of time, I think for a lot of Linn County residents, there is a lot of value in having a person who is dedicated to keeping a steady eye on our disaster resources,” Sustainability Director Tamara Marcus said.
When former Supervisor Stacey Walker held Running-Marquardt’s seat, the county board directed $363,389 to the Sustainability Department for its operations and for the hiring of a resiliency coordinator for three years.
The supervisors have grappled with uncertainty in the fiscal 2024 budget after having to cut spending by $1.74 million because of a state error on the property tax rollback that left local governments receiving less revenue than anticipated.
That situation left no immediately clear path to funding the resiliency coordinator.
The sustainability coordinator will work with other government and nonprofit entities to focus on the marginalized and vulnerable communities most affected by natural disasters.
The individual would partner with the county’s Emergency Management Agency on disaster response and sustainable solutions and maintain relationships with other external partners to strengthen disaster resiliency.
Funding for the position in fiscal 2024 will include money carried forward from the current budget year, which ends June 30.
Beyond that, there’s no guaranteed path to funding the role.
For fiscal 2025 — the budget year spanning July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025 — funding would come from the general fund using property tax revenue. With an amendment proposed by Zumbach and approved by Running-Marquardt and Supervisor Ben Rogers, the position would have to be OK’d as part of the county’s offer pot, where departments compete to add new roles if there’s additional growth in the tax base and therefore additional money at the end of the fiscal year.
Zumbach said he wanted other departments to know positions will be done as part of the regular budget process through the offer pot in the future. He raised concerns about this position being funded while facing inflationary pressures using money from other departments — such as money unspent from a facilities director vacancy — to fund it for one year then having no secure funding going forward.
The other two supervisors indicated long-term support for the role.
Running-Marquardt thanked Marcus for working with herself and others to identify funding for the role and said she hoped this position could move forward permanently in future budgets.
“If I could have had a crystal ball in January knowing that the budget would be the way it was,” Running-Marquardt said, acknowledging the budget gap from the state’s rollback error correction and other fiscal woes. “ … This was a couple-month tough path but it remained a priority of mine and will remain a priority of mine moving forward.”
Cedar Rapids resident Linda Langston, a former county supervisor, told the board Monday it is key to have someone in this role working to establish relationships across organizations and jurisdictions to truly build resilience.
“I think it has high value, especially based on the report that was submitted last year that would allow all the organizations throughout Linn County to collaborate particularly on building response to whatever kind of disaster might be out there,” Langston said, referring to the joint Cedar Rapids-Linn County Community Resilience Project done after the 2020 derecho.
On Monday, Rogers noted the Sustainability Department received a substantial sum of ARPA dollars and asked if this role would help execute on the mission of those funds.
Marcus said the department lacks staff capacity currently and works to support both internal department needs while responding to community requests for support.
Although this was not how the county initially intended to staff this position, Rogers said the role will help the county work with the city, industrial partners, citizens and other entities to be good environmental stewards.
“It felt like you were given a car without the car keys,” Rogers said. “Having this position is the car keys that allow the vehicle to move … to really help collaborate with other industries and other sectors with making us more resilient to future disasters.”
Marcus quipped that the car should be powered with natural energy sources.
Comments: (319) 398-8494; email@example.com