Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, July 3 newspaper on Page A1.

An initial step was taken Tuesday to put a 0.25 percent sales tax on the November ballot in Athens County, with the county commissioners saying the lion’s share would go to Athens County 911 if voters give the tax a thumbs up.

A final vote has not been taken by the commissioners to officially put it on the ballot.

At their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners voted to have two required public hearings regarding the tax — on July 24 and 29, both at 6 p.m., with locations to be determined.

A vote on whether to put it on the ballot could be taken at the commissioners’ July 30 regular meeting.

The deadline for putting issues on the fall ballot is Aug. 7.

If approved by voters, such a tax would generate an estimated $900,000.

The commissioners said their intent would be to earmark half the money for 911, one-fourth for the sheriff’s office and one-fourth for general operations.

The county already has a 1.25 percent sales tax, with 0.25 going to 911. If an additional 0.25 is approved by voters, it would max out at 1.5 percent the amount of sales tax the county can have. (However, Ohio law does allow an extra 0.25 specifically for transit systems).

Lt. Aaron Maynard, 911 interim director, said Athens County 911 faces an estimated deficit of $27,250 in 2020, growing to $185,286 in 2023. Those numbers are based on a 1.6 percent growth in the current sales tax revenue.

“If we weren’t to do any projects — if we were to say we’re just going to stay status quo, we’re not going to try and move forward in any way — that’s where we’re at in terms of our budget with the dollars that are currently being brought in with the sales tax,” Maynard said Tuesday. “We know we have infrastructure needs.”

As examples, Maynard cited needs for tower improvements, 911 console needs and a facility that meets department needs and allows for growth. He also said the department will face contract salary increases over the next five years.

After the meeting, Commissioner Lenny Eliason said there are different ways to pay for a new facility if a decision is made to have one — part of it could come from the 911 budget, the county could pay for it or 911 could pay rent.

There has been some discussion of 911 possibly moving to the former Atco building that the county owns.

The Messenger will report details of the planned sales tax public hearings when they become available.

srobb@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @SteveRmessenger

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