Pataskala City Council on Aug. 20 discussed creating Community Reinvestment Areas in Pataskala's three downtown areas to encourage residents to invest in home improvements.

Pataskala City Council on Aug. 20 discussed creating Community Reinvestment Areas in Pataskala's three downtown areas to encourage residents to invest in home improvements.

City Council heard the first of three readings of three ordinances to establish the CRAs in Old Village, Summit Station and Columbia Center. The CRAs would provide tax abatements on the value of improved and newly built homes for 10 years.

Mayor Steve Butcher said, for example, if the owner of a $50,000 home were to invest another $50,000 into the home to raise its assessed value to $100,000 or more, the homeowner would be taxed only for the original $50,000 value for the 10-year abatement period. At the end of the term, the homeowner would begin to pay the full assessed value.

"Its value as a tax stays at $50,000 for 10 years," Butcher said. "The values of the other homes around it go up and the day those 10 years expire, the homeowner pays the full amount. You don't lose (the tax value), you delay it."

Butcher said the hope is that the abatements would encourage people to live in the homes they improve and not simply have a downtown full of rental homes. For now, he said, the abatement would apply only to residences, because commercial abatements involve the local school districts and require much more legislation.

However, not everyone was in favor.

"It hasn't been thought through yet," Council member Bernard Brush said.

Brush was concerned the city has a lot of millage among school districts and public services and increased value from the improvements would help reduce taxes, albeit slightly, for all residents. Also, he questioned if would be fair to residents who improve their homes but live outside the CRAs.

If the CRAs are established, he said he wants to see them centered on specific areas of the city where homes are blighted and really require improvement, as opposed to a large area around the downtown, much of which is not residential.

Council member Mike Fox questioned if CRAs would affect the funds collected by the school district, the West Licking Joint Fire District and other county entities.

"In my opinion, that amounts to a tax break for some and a tax increase for others," he said. "By not having the improvements applied to the levies, the amount businesses and homeowners pay does not decrease as normal.

"Therefore, the rest of the residents are assisting those taxpayers with their tax bills," he added. "The economy is bad; we are a small community. Now is not the time."

Licking County Deputy Auditor Chad Fuller disagreed that the CRAs would raise taxes for the surrounding community.

"Technically, it does not," he said.

He said the CRAs would benefit the entire city.

"That total evaluation doesn't change; it nets out the same," he said.

Fuller said when the CRA abatement period ends, the improved properties would create a higher tax value for the entire city.

"Everybody benefits in the end," he said. "It's just an incentive for people to fix up their properties."