116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Voters in rural Linn County and most Cedar Rapids metro area communities will decide in November whether to extend an existing local-option sales tax, and other cities are set to say later this month whether to join the ballot also.
The Linn County Board of Supervisors, meeting Monday in a work session, became the latest to officially join the Nov. 2 ballot question, agreeing to put it before voters in unincorporated areas. With Linn County’s vote, it joins the cities of Cedar Rapids, Marion and Fairfax in approving ballot language to go to voters. The city councils of Hiawatha and Robins expect to vote on it this month.
In May, leaders from the five cities and the county announced they would advocate for the extension of the existing 1-cent sales tax used to fund infrastructure and other initiatives through 2034. The tax, for all communities, is currently set to expire in 2024.
Voters would have to agree if the tax, which increased the local sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, is to be extended. A simple majority of voters in the metro area cities collectively is required to pass the measure. Rural residents or non-contiguous Linn County cities can decide their outcomes independently.
Elected officials in the municipalities decide how their communities will use the revenue. In Cedar Rapids, the extra sales tax money is devoted to the Paving for Progress street upgrade and replacement initiative.
At the May news conference, Linn County Supervisor Louie Zumbach said he thinks it’s important for rural residents to vote to extend the sales tax.
“It’s a plus for anyone who lives here to vote for this,” he said during the news conference. “This is extremely important for rural residents as it is for urban residents.”
Across the entire Cedar Rapids metro area, the local communities collectively gain $31 million a year in revenue from the extra sales tax. In fiscal 2021, the county received about $6.3 million in the extra sales tax funds, according to the Iowa Department of Revenue.
Voters who live in unincorporated Linn County voted for 50 percent of the funds to go toward improving the secondary roads system, 25 percent to go to conservation projects and programs and 25 percent for property tax relief.
For fiscal 2020, $2.7 million of the county local option funding was budgeted for road construction, $1.5 million for conservation projects and $1.5 million for property tax relief. Over the last decade, the county secondary roads department has received $36 million in the funds.
The funds have helped the department’s five-year construction program by paving 106 miles of roads, completing three bridge projects and three culvert replacement projects.
Around $8 million in the extra funding has helped leverage completion of $28 million in projects over the period the revenue has been available. Specific projects include the Mary Lundby Bridge connecting the campground to the day-use park at Pinicon Ridge; modern restrooms and playgrounds at Pinicon Ridge; trail development on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail north of Cedar Rapids; and the Highway 100 trail connection through Morgan Creek Park.
Last week, supervisors also passed a resolution to place a gambling referendum on the same November ballot. The question for voters countywide will be whether to renew permission to allow licensed gambling in Linn County, which would open the door for Cedar Rapids to try again to seek authorization from state regulators to build a casino.
Linn County voters overwhelmingly supported gambling in 2013, but the permission expires if not renewed. Voter approval of the measure on a second consecutive attempt would permanently authorize licensed gambling within the county — if the state were to grant a license here.
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