Waterloo's debt is average compared to similar cities - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo's debt is average compared to similar cities

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

On the heels of the recent Iowa municipal elections, city debt has been a popular issue.

A city's finances can often speak for itself -- especially when compared to surrounding cities in eastern Iowa.

The City of Waterloo has about a $95 million debt. With a population of roughly 70,000 people, the city said this dollar figure is pretty average.

What can be shocking, though, is when that $95 million is compared to other cities' debts. Coralville, for example, carries a whopping $280 million debt -- with a population of about 20,000.

Waterloo Finance Manager Michelle Weidner said the city uses several methods to lower its debt. Along with seeking lower interest rates in regard to bonds, it also uses the tax increment finance system, or TIF.

Weidner said TIF is a strategy to entice businesses to come to Waterloo. With TIF, the city can offer a lower tax incentive initially for a new business.

"We will use TIF to help provide incentives to draw an employer. Maybe they'll build a new building, bring new jobs, and we would use it to acquire the land, put in streets, sewer, water, all the things they need to function," Weidner said.

Waterloo can then use the revenue generated by that business to help pay off the debt.

The city said it tries to break even each year in terms of its borrowing and spending. The debt is incurred from investments, as Waterloo puts money into long-term capital projects in hopes of a large return.

Weidner said the city isn't planning on adding to its debt, as the goal now is maintenance and reduction. She said that way, Waterloo doesn't have to raise the tax levy.

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