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

Corbett TV out with latest; calls for economic development; but are all i’s dotted, t’s crossed in video episode’s property-tax math?

In Ron Corbett on April 21, 2009 at 8:11 am

Corbett TV is back with its latest video installment.

This time, mayoral candidate Ron Corbett — www.roncorbett.com —  is making the point that the city needs to do a better job of attracting new companies to town to expand the city’s tax base. A bigger tax base, with more taxpaying industries, businesses and people participating, will mean less pressure to raise taxes on current taxpayers.

We need a bigger pie, Corbett says.

We need a return to a time not so many years ago when new industries — he cities Cedar River Paper, PMX Industries, Genencor — seemed to show up in the city regularly.

Of course, you can’t have Corbett TV without a video, and it always helps to employ a backdrop to make the current point.

To date, Corbett has stood in front of the abandoned, flood-damaged Swiss Valley Farms plant near the Cedar River to lament the loss of local industry. He’s been outside of the empty, flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall indicting current city leaders for what Corbett calls “a culture of delay.” And there was the closed, flood-damaged Ellis Park swimming pool in another video. Why couldn’t city leaders get the pool open this season? Corbett wondered.

In the latest Corbett TV video, he’s standing down at the construction site of the new $140-million-plus federal courthouse going up now between the river and Second Street SE and Seventh and Eighth avenues SE.

He points out that MidAmerican Energy used to sit on the site, and when the utility was there, it paid property taxes to the city. Now, the site is in government hands and no longer will generate property taxes.
In this little example, the property-tax burden will fall harder on the rest of the residents if something isn’t done to expand the local tax base to make up for what is being lost at the courthouse site, Corbett suggests.

Corbett TV’s latest didn’t come with a blackboard to do all the higher math. The Corbett TV video was trying to make the point that economic development is important.

The blackboard, though, might have been useful to do the adding and subtracting of property taxes, taking into account MidAmerican’s move to different digs in Cedar Rapids, to a property that had been vacated in northwest Cedar Rapids by Highway Equipment Co. Highway Equipment had built a new home on the city’s southwest side and moved there.

Actually, too, private utilities are treated differently than other private entities in terms of property taxes. The taxes they pay to local jurisdictions are called franchise fees, not property taxes, Casey Drew, the city of Cedar Rapids’ finance director, explains.

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  1. Franchise fees? How is this different than a tax Casey?

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