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Midwest States Find Rising Economic Tide Follows Floods

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The Great Comeback of 1994 has followed the Great Flood of 1993.

The floods that hit states throughout the Midwest last year were considered "100-year floods," meaning those of a scale seen only once a century.

Estimates of damage to farms, homes, and businesses reached $12 billion as the Missouri and Mississippi rivers left their banks and spread economic ruin. (See Education Week, Sept. 8, 1993.)

The economic forecasts immediately after the flood were gloomy, and some of them proved accurate.

Five of the eight states with the slowest personal-income growth last year were hit by the floods, according to a federal study.

And the floods permanently damaged the tax base in some regions.

In the Orchard Farm school district north of St. Charles, Mo., property dropped in assessed value from $86 million to $74 million, according to Gary Van Meter, the district superintendent. Schools there lost 35 percent of their 1,500-student enrollment. "We'll just have to tailor our program to these reductions," Mr. Van Meter said.

But most of the states that were hit by the floods are not having to make do with less.

Counties in nine states were declared federal disaster areas, but revenue gains in seven of those states outran the 5.3 percent average increase nationwide, according to a recent state survey. (See related story.)

Surfacing With a Surplus

The recovery was perhaps most stunning in Iowa. All 99 counties there were declared federal or state disaster areas after the floods.

But the infusion of relief money combined with a boom in flood-related construction to lift revenues by nearly 6 percent, "far above what we ever expected," according to Rep. Steven E. Grubbs, the chairman of the education committee in the Iowa House.

The budget that the legislature passed for this year aims to turn the state's $400 million deficit into a $70 million surplus, he said.

Next year, the legislature may boost school aid to levels not seen in three year, he added.

"The report from Iowa is that we're stronger than ever," Mr. Grubbs said.

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