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

Archive for April 3rd, 2009|Daily archive page

What Linn County gave a flood victim, it apparently must take back

In Floods, Linn County government on April 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

The Linn County Board of Supervisors this week agreed to suspend the property taxes of a Cedar Rapids flood victim based on a provision in state law.

Next week, at the advice of the Linn County Attorney’s Office and its reading of the state statute, the supervisors are apt to rescind the suspension, Lu Barron, board chairwoman, and Linn County Treasurer Mike Stevenson said Friday.

As the supervisors recently have discussed flood victims and their property taxes, Stevenson has noted that the county suspends property taxes each year for 750 or so homeowners based on a state law that permits suspensions for those over 65 or those disabled who meet certain income guidelines.

This week, though, the supervisors accorded Dana Spore of Cedar Rapids a tax suspension because she is a flood victim, not because of age or disability.

Barron on Friday said the County Attorney’s Office now has concluded that the provision of the particular state law on tax suspensions does not allow the county to extend it to someone who does not fit the age or disability criteria.

As a result, Barron said the supervisors next week — probably at their Wednesday morning meeting — will revisit the entire tax-suspension matter and see what other state laws exist that might have some bearing the property taxes of flood victims.

“We need to address this,” Barron said. “We can’t let this go.”

For now, though, the need to rescind Spore’s tax suspension will come as a disappointment to Spore and others.

Upon hearing the news about Spore’s tax suspension this week, other flood victims called the supervisors and the Linn County Treasurer seeking like suspensions of their property taxes.

The suspension is attractive to many flood victims who face paying property taxes on flood-damaged homes they cannot live in and likely will never be able to live in again. Particularly upsetting to the victims is that the taxes continue to be based on the pre-flood value of homes. That’s because Iowa’s property-tax system bases current taxes on earlier valuations, flood or no flood.

Without a suspension or tax abatement, homeowners who can’t or don’t pay their property taxes will face interest penalties and see their homes put up for tax sale in June. They could lose the home in two years if they then don’t pay the owed tax and the interest by then.

Scott Labus, the city of Cedar Rapids’ assessor, this week said his office’s new assessments of the city’s flood-damaged residential property found that it has lost $138.5 million of its value to the flood.


Do you know any of these people? Are any worth electing to the City Council?

In City Hall on April 3, 2009 at 11:13 am

Nine residents, all men, have taken out nomination papers to run for City Council in the Nov. 3 general election.

Taking out papers and getting citizen signatures on them and turning them in are two different things. But getting papers shows interest. After all, you’ve gone to the trouble to go to the City Clerk’s Office or the Linn County Auditor’s Office to pick the papers up.

The only name of the nine on the list to date that is easily recognized is Jerry McGrane’s. McGrane is the incumbent District 3 council member who has said he intends to seek reelection.

Andrew Murrow, 800 15th St. SE, noted that he, too, was interested in running for the District 3 seat.

Three people said they were interested in running for mayor: Nick Olinger, 1620 Fourth Ave. SE; Steve Almond, 5641 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, #8; and Jeff Allard, 1439 Wolf Dr. NW.

Others taking out papers but not identifying which council seat they might seek are: Mel Hayes, 2210 C St. SW; Robert Bates, Cedar Rapids; Calvin Busch, 1334 C St. SW, #3; and Daniel Schloss, 1500 Bever Ave. SE.

To date, only one candidate has announced publicly that he is running for city office. That is Ron Corbett, a vice president at trucking firm CRST Inc. and a former state legislator and former president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Corbett is running for mayor.

Six of the council’s nine seats are on this year’s ballot. The incumbents in those seats are Mayor Kay Halloran, District 1 council member Kris Gulick, District 3’s McGrane, District 5’s Justin Shields and at-large council members Brian Fagan and Pat Shey.

Halloran has said she will announce her intentions after the end of the Iowa Legislature’s session this spring.

Back in 2005 — the first election in the city’s then-new government with a part-time council and a city manager — nearly 40 people ran for the nine seats.

Three of the seats were open in 2007 to create a stagger so not all nine seats would be up for election the same year. In 2007, two incumbents, District 2’s Sarah Henderson and District 4’s Chuck Swore, were defeated by Monica Vernon and Chuck Wieneke. At-large council member Tom Podzimek won reelection in 2007.