The campaign to pass a 2-percent income tax with a 1-percent credit in Pataskala officially begins this week, with the election of officers for the political-action committee (PAC).

The campaign to pass a 2-percent income tax with a 1-percent credit in Pataskala officially begins this week, with the election of officers for the political-action committee (PAC).

Pataskala City Councilman Brian Raybourne was chosen as chairman of the committee and said hopes his passion for the issue will become contagious.

"I have no doubt we're fighting an uphill battle. The issue has failed, what, six times in the past, and there's a struggling economy," he said. "This is going to be tough, but this may be the best chance we have to pass it."

Raybourne and other council members have struggled with all council decisions lately because of the city's restrained financial condition. Recently, council recognized city administrator Timothy Boland's decision to layoff the parks director and ask the parks advisory board to operate some park programs. Other park programs were cut, and the city is considering cutting the entire department next year.

Cuts in police staff could be next. On Monday, council is expected to hear a proposal to keep two officers working the streets, thus keeping them from working in Licking Heights High School as school resource officers. Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher said the department is down to 17 officers, and if the city loses any more, the department's ability to provide police protection could be hampered.

"Seventeen is as low as we can go," Butcher said. "If we get down to 15, we will have serious overtime issues and difficulty manning the department 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Services also have been cut, and the city is seeking more grant money to repair bridges and do minimal street repairs.

"We need to start (campaigning) early," Raybourne said. "There are so many misconceptions out there. Our focus really is going to be on education. We need to show how the money is intended to be used and how much we will raise.

"The numbers will be there. The best way is for us to be open and honest. That's your best chance (to pass an income tax issue)," he said.

Raybourne will meet with supporters at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, at the West Licking Joint Fire District on Broad Street.

During the meeting, Raybourne said, he hopes to elect a campaign treasurer and an assistant campaign manager. Raybourne said he'd like for the city's finance director, Jason Carr, to serve as treasurer.

"I'd also like to work on assigning responsibilities as we move forward. The more individuals that have experience working with PACs the better," he said. "I only ask that you come with an open mind. We will need new, fresh ideas, which makes this an exciting time that will require a lot of work from all of us."

Raybourne said he hopes to organize supporters during the meeting and begin the deluge of information to the public.

Raybourne is in his first year serving on council and said he knew the city faced financial woes before he was elected. But he didn't realize, he said, how bad it was until he started looking into the numbers.

"I didn't realize that in three years from now, if we don't get an income tax passed, the city of Pataskala is going to be in the red," he said. "We probably can't afford any increase in salaries and there will be potential layoffs. ... It's tough."

The city's charter requires a vote of the public to allow the city to collect the tax. The 2-percent income tax is expected to bring in an estimated $2.7- to $2.8-million annually when it's collected at the full rate.

The income-tax issue will be on the November ballot, which also contains at least one bond issue for Southwest Licking Local Schools.

"It will be a difficult battle in November. ... We're facing the likelihood of both (issues) failing," Raybourne said.