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Athens City Council meets Sept. 18, 2023, at the Athens Municipal Court on Washington Street.

City council discusses fee increases and decreases

Athens City Council met Monday to discuss parking and sewer fee increases and decreased art vending fees.

The council discussed ordinances to increase parking fees by 25 cents and sewer fees for residents and businesses. However, Councilmember Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, questioned whether the council should approve these increases because property taxes could increase after the Nov. 7 election.

Swank urged council members and the audience to look at the county auditor’s website because its search function will show any residential building owner what property tax they will pay in 2024 if the measures are passed.

Swank said this will affect anyone owning or renting a residential property because the tax will cause an increase in rent prices. He said he took a random 12-building sample of properties in Athens using the website, including council members' houses.

“One council member will see an increase of $535 in their taxes in a year, another $485, another $228, another $256 and another $263,” Swank said.

According to the website, the increases in the search function were based on 2022 property values. Jill Davidson, Athens County auditor, is updating property values for tax purposes in 2023. 

The tax commissioner recommended an increase of 20% to the aggregate residential property value, though the tax rate will not be raised by the same amount, according to the website.

Two ballot issues – to build a new high school in the Athens City School District and a levy for Athens County emergency services – will also raise residential taxes. Swank said if these issues pass, then Athens community members will see a significant decline in their personal budgets.  

Swank asked for more information about what the city budget would look like if the council did not increase those fees and if the additional increase could hold off for one to three more years. 

He also asked Councilmember Ben Ziff, D-At Large and manager at Donkey Coffee on 17 W. Washington St., how an increase in parking fees would affect service workers in the uptown area.

“A lot of us just keep feeding the meter all day,” Ziff said. “It definitely hurts. It's very disheartening to look at your paycheck a lot of times because a lot of us are tipped employees. We make minimum wage, and then we get paid on top of that, but it's very frustrating always to see a full hour or sometimes two hours of your whole shift being spent on parking.”

The council removed an ordinance for a specialty vendor's license, primarily for artists, from the table after an art vendor asked it to reconsider the $100 monthly art vendor fee at its last •main business meeting. The revised ordinance will change it to $25.


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