Cedar Rapids may use sales tax growth to pay for flood plan - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids may use sales tax growth to pay for flood plan

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL)-- Cedar Rapids city leaders have an idea for how to pay for flood protection for the city. They said in a media brief on Tuesday, that the projected yearly growth in Linn County's 6-percent sales tax would cover the state and local portions of a $375 million flood protection plan.

City leaders are calling this the Growth Reinvestment Initiative.

As it stands, Mayor Ron Corbett says the city's preferred flood protection plan is only half-covered by federal funding.

"Right now, we only have the federal government supporting the east side, at $100 million, at a cost share of 65/35," Corbett said.

That would leave residents on the Cedar River's west bank exposed to future flooding, which he and city council members said is unacceptable.

"If we have flood protection in this city, it's going to be on both sides of the river," said council member Chuck Weineke.

Here's how the plan would work:

The current 6-percent sales tax generates about $180 million a year in Linn County. City officials conservatively estimate that in-county spending will grow by 1 to 2-percent over the next 20 years., creating an additional $400 to $860 million. They hope to convince federal and state lawmakers to allow the city to keep that additional money. That would safely cover the state and local portion (around 35-percent) of the city's flood protection plan.

"We want to come up with a solution that has a minimal effect on the state that allows us to generate the dollars we're going need," said City Manager Jeff Pomeranz.

But as with almost any initiative that uses sales tax dollars in non-traditional ways, Senator Rob Hogg said challenges lie ahead.

"That's the bread and butter for the state, in providing assistance for K-12 education, Medicaid, programs like that, so we're going to have to work with that," said Hogg.

Mayor Corbett hopes he can persuade lawmakers that it will be worth it.

"We fully intend to put a full-court press on this issue during the legislative session," Corbett explained.

Corbett said there are a lot of details in this plan that are subject to change through the legislative process, but he and members of city staff said the initiative, if approved, will play a crucial role in spurring growth in Cedar Rapids.

This may be a non-traditional use of sales tax dollars, but Mayor Corbett said it has been done before. The city of Newton did something similar, to build the $70 million Iowa Speedway, which has been a major driver for economic growth for that area.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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