Eastern Iowa debt: Five major cities on a broad spectrum - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa debt: Five major cities on a broad spectrum

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Of the five principle cities in eastern Iowa, which one has the biggest debt?

Cedar Rapids has the highest with a $445 million debt. The four others' are as follows:

  • Dubuque- $201 million
  • Iowa City- $130 million
  • Waterloo- $95 million
  • Cedar Falls- $11 million

Each city's debt is fairly proportional with its population. Cedar Rapids has a population of about 128,000 while Cedar Falls, the lowest debt of the five cities, has roughly 40,000 people.

Cedar Rapids' debt approaches Des Moines', the largest city in Iowa. Des Moines has a debt of $459 million with 206,000 people living in the city.

In scanning the debts across eastern Iowa, Coralville's grabbed national attention in the New York Times earlier this month with a $280 million debt for 20,000 people. Compare Coralville to the largest city in Iowa, and one gets added perspective. Coralville has more than half of Des Moines' debt but Des Moines is about 10 times larger based on population.

Mayor Jon Crews of Cedar Falls said the city's key to keeping its debt relatively low is prioritizing. He said the city looks for private funding for almost all of its projects and practices replacement debt, or trying to pay off the same amount it borrows each year.

"Try to prioritize and do the ones that affect the most people... help the most people with the least money possible," Crews said.

On the flip side, Cedar Rapids Financial Director Casey Drew said Cedar Rapids' debt is so high because it handles the city's utilities. He said the city covers things like water pollution control and that Cedar Rapids is unique in that sense.

Drew said the city has a plan in place to pay off the $445 million debt.

"When we issue debt we have a schedule that says you're going to pay this amount off every year and we then budget for those payments," Drew said.

Cedar Rapids is at about 73 percent of it's debt capacity while Cedar Falls is at roughly 13 percent.

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