November Ballot Could Feature Athens Rec Levy

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As the city of Athens is exploring options for a new pool — as well as other arts, parks and recreation upgrades — the possibility of an income tax renewal is being discussed for the November election.

The city’s Arts, Parks and Recreation Department recently completed a new master plan with the aid of an advisory committee.

One of the top priorities laid out in the master plan is the need to build a new swimming pool or aquatic center.

The city’s current pool was opened in 1971 and is near the end of its useful life.

Former Athens mayor Ric Abel, chairman of the Arts, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and the department’s director, Rich Campitelli, spoke about the need for a renewal tax to cover the cost of some of these projects.

The city currently has a 20-year, 0.1 percent income tax which was implemented in 1997 to pay for the Athens Community Center, which was completed in 2000.

That tax will expire on Dec. 31, 2016.

The city also has a permanent 0.05 percent income tax that helps pay for operations of the Arts, Parks and Recreation Department.

Abel has suggested that the 0.1 percent income tax be renewed for 10 years to pay for a new pool; for accessibility improvements, including at ARTS/West, restroom facilities, playgrounds and trails; and for additional staffing to fulfill routine maintenance, safety inspections and ongoing upkeep of park areas and facilities.

Several Athens City Council members expressed support for the proposal on Monday night. Councilwoman Chris Fahl said that recreation is one of the biggest drivers for economic development in the area. She said businesses want to be located in towns that have a high quality of life, adding that recreation is a big part of that.

It is expected that Council will introduce an ordinance next week to place the tax issue on the November ballot.

The deadline to get the issue on the ballot is the first week of August.

Although the income tax may appear on the ballot this November, the proposed 10-year tax wouldn’t be implemented until Jan. 1, 2017, if passed by voters.