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Coralville mulls local-option tax

BY KASSIE FRIEDRICHS | FEBRUARY 18, 2009 7:50 AM

The Coralville City Council discussed funding a storm-sewer system flood-mitigation project with money from a proposed local-option sales tax at its work session Tuesday night.

The flood-mitigation project proposes to protect the city against water 1 foot higher than this past summer’s flood, Councilor John Lundell said. The project, estimated at $54 million, includes a new CRANDIC railroad embankment, new and upgraded storm-water pump stations, new floodwalls, and new berms, which help control runoff.

Councilors discussed minute changes in the language of the proposed tax, hoping to make it more clear to the public how the tax dollars would be used.

The local-option sales tax would cover “flood protection of public infrastructure projects” and would match funding for federal or state grant programs that aid those infrastructure efforts, according to city records.

The tax would provide Coralville with between $2.3 million and $6.2 million annually, City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said.

But Coralville can’t put the tax to vote unless Iowa City does.

“The city of Iowa City has complete control of putting out the ballot,” Lundell said.

Still, Coralville voters could still approve the tax if Iowa City’s ballot fails.

If the tax passes in Coralville, councilors said, it would likely secure roughly $11 million to $12 million over five years — less than half of the proposed $54 million for the flood-mitigation project.

“Obviously, that doesn’t come close to doing what we need, but that’s a reasonable time period,” Hayworth said.

As a local-option sales tax, funding for cities that elect to implement the tax would be dependent on money spent in that city.

Public criticism over the tax and flood-mitigation project has taken form in a protest group, Councilor Tom Gill said.

But Hayworth stressed the importance of the project.

“If we have another flood, and we lose businesses and residential areas, that will have a significant impact on our overall property-tax values,” he said. “I think you can see certain areas in our community right now that are slow to come back.”

Lundell noted the tax will not be used for mitigation, which helps specific businesses and residences, but for city infrastructure.

The city won’t be distributing to specific businesses and homes, he said, which “will be a common misconception.”


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