The Athens City Council met to learn more about the new mandated state tax code and progress of the Upgrade Athens County project during their commissions meeting Monday.
Tina Timberman, income tax administrator for the city of Athens, explained the new state uniform tax code going into effect in 2016. The new code mandates that Athens’ tax code must be in compliance before Jan. 1 or the city cannot levy taxes.
The new tax code spells major changes for the Board of Appeals. The changes include a need for a new board to be in place by Jan. 1 or before the first appeal is submitted in 2016. The board will be changed to include three individuals serving for two years with an unlimited number of terms. Two board members will be appointed by the council and one by the mayor. The expert advised the council to have alternative nominations.
Other changes include a threshold to determine quarterly or monthly filings and a penalty for late payments. There will also be changes in the reporting requirements. Rental owners and owners of small businesses will be affected by the new tax code, but the average W2 income filers should not be affected if they file on time.
The second major discussion began when Councilman Steve Patterson, D-At Large, introduced Executive Director Sarah Conley-Ballew of the Upgrade Athens County project. The project aims to help Athens County work toward creating a sustainable energy transition for Southeast Ohio.
The project makes the town eligible for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national award with 57 finalists competing in a two-year competition. The competition challenges communities to reduce their energy consumption through innovation and community engagement, with the winner earning a $5 million prize. The official leaderboard for the semi-finalists is still being determined, but Athens County ranks among the top 20 contestants.
“The motto in our office is ‘keep our eye on the Georgetown prize,’” Conley-Ballew said.
The project has support from Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council’s two energy suppliers, American Electric Power Co. and Empower Gas and Electric. It has also received support from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Columbia Gas of Ohio in an effort to win the award.
With the assistance of its allies, the project has launched the electric vehicle initiative. The program, which is planned to roll out this fall, enables interest-free auto loans for residents of Athens County to put towards purchasing 100 percent electric vehicles.
Conley-Ballew announced that the Upgrade Athens County project will be receiving the 2015 Green Innovation award from the Ohio Environmental Council in November.
“They are impressed with our groundbreaking approach to electric aggregation and see this as an excellent alternative to the historic energy extraction services in Appalachia,” Conley-Ballew said.