The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Mayor Halloran tracking Statehouse voting, says council poised to call a March 3 sales tax vote for ‘flood recovery’

In City Hall, Floods, Mayor Kay Halloran on January 27, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Mayor Kay Halloran on Tuesday evening said the City Council is at the ready to set a vote for March 3 on a 1-percent local-option tax to help with flood recovery. A portion of the money raised — between $18 million and $23 million a year — will go to lower property taxes, she said.

Any move by the council to set a March 3 referendum, though, is contingent on the Iowa Legislature passing a special piece of legislation that set aside some timing issues to allow for an expedited vote on the local-option sales tax issue. Cedar Rapids legislators, Sen. Rob Hogg and Rep. Tyler Olson, are trying to steer the bill to passage.

The law would apply to cities in every county in Iowa that has a disaster declaration. But most cities in Iowa don’t need any help. They already have the tax in place. Only six county seat cities — Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Des Moines, Adel, Indianola and Ida Grove — don’t now have a local-option sales tax.

After last night’s City Council budget session, Mayor Halloran was looking at her Blackberry phone to check on the votes in the Legislature. The Senate had passed the measure and had sent it on to the Iowa House, city staff members had reported to her.

Halloran said Gov. Chet Culver has told her he intends to sign the legislation into law if the Legislature passes it.

Halloran emphasized last night that the local-option tax in Cedar Rapids will be used for flood recovery and reducing property taxes.

For now, those property taxes are slated to jump in the new budget year beginning July 1 as the city tries to balance a budget with lost revenue from flood-damaged properties and new costs associated with flood recovery.

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