In Gahanna, parks maintenance and development, recreational programming and personnel all hinge on the outcome of Issue 12 on May 7.

Voters will decide whether to increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.5% to 2.5%, and increase the tax credit from 83.33% to 100% for those who pay municipal taxes elsewhere.

If approved, 75% of the revenue resulting from the increase would be dedicated for capital improvements and equipment for infrastructure, public safety, municipal facilities or parks and recreation, including but not limited to streets, buildings, parks facilities, trails and playground elements, maintenance and repair of the equipment and paying debt service for such purposes.

The other 25% would fund operations for public safety, public service or parks and recreation, including but not limited to police protection, 911 emergency services, snow removal, streetlight and traffic-signal maintenance and parks and recreation programs.

Early in-person voting and absentee voting by mail for the May 7 primary began April 9.

Jeff Barr, Gahanna's parks and recreation director, said there would be some type of reduction if Issue 12 isn't successful.

"We will work with the mayor, finance director and council as far as what's affected in the department as a whole," he said. "Regardless, our pool and summer camps are fully funded for the 2019 season; 2020 will be determined. The pools, summer camps, the senior facility – these are all possible reductions. We will need to take time to be thoughtful about reductions."

Gahanna City Council on Jan. 29 adopted the 2019 budget that included defunding the full-time parks and recreation director position, effective June 1.

At that time, council President Brian Metzbower said the charter gives council authority to defund full-time positions; to eliminate them completely would have to be done in conjunction with the administration.

He said positions poised to be defunded could be retained if a ballot issue is approved.

"Obviously, this would take a vote from council, and I can't speak to how the rest of them would vote, but I do think there would be support for that occurring," Metzbower said.

Barr said this season, the swimming pools will be open, with one-hour of reduced operation each day.

"Camps will operate as we have at the Friendship Park location and at Hannah Park," he said.

"They will be fully staffed with programming, activities, special events, and field trips and swim days as we always have in the past. If Issue 12 were to fail, the swimming pools have been a topic of discussion that potentially will see a reduction, or closure, to be determined after the May vote."

As to the fate of recreational programs, events and activities, Barr said, discussion would take place to reduce and-or eliminate existing opportunities.

If Issue 12 passes, he said, the swimming pools would continue to operate as in the past and improvements could be made.

Barr said the city owns park land around Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4719, 75 W. Johnstown Road, and passage of Issue 12 would bring the opportunity to develop the land with soccer, baseball and softball fields, and provide field space for lacrosse as well as other park amenities for residents.

Barr said passage of the tax increase also would help further develop the city's west side park at the northeast corner of Hines and McCutcheon roads.

"There's additional park space here that we'd like to add a picnic shelter, a couple basketball courts and continue to build a loop trail around the park for walking, running, exercise for the residents of the neighborhood," he said.

Barr said passage of Issue 12 also would allow the city to improve and renovate other parks such as Academy Park, 1201 Cherry Bottom Road, which is predominantly used by baseball and softball groups through the Gahanna Junior League.

"We'd like to renovate those fields and improve the site," he said. "We believe we could make better use of the space to add a couple more ball fields."

Barr said Headley Park, 1031 Challis Springs Drive, is heavily used by the Gahanna Soccer Association, providing youth recreational soccer. He said drainage work could improve those fields.

He said passage of Issue 12 would also allow the city to keep playgrounds updated.

"They typically have a 20- to 25-year lifespan," Barr said. "We need to make sure those are safe for people to use. Appropriate and sustainable funding is need to replace those on a regular cycle."

Carrin Wester, chairwoman of the Issue 12 campaign and member of Gahanna Residents Improving Tomorrow, the group promoting the issue, said parents and families already have been affected by cuts to summer camping programs, because the Creating Opportunities through Recreation Experiences teen camp and pre-K camps were cut this year.

"Some parents had to scramble to find affordable day care for their kids this summer," she said.

Wester said many parks and recreation employees are fearful their jobs won't be around next year.

"Without additional funding, our 750-plus acres of parkland in Gahanna won't be kept up to current standards," she said.

Wester said part of what makes Gahanna a great place to live are the amenities offered through parks and recreation.

"Our parks and programs are where memories are made, and that is on the chopping block without Issue 12," Wester said. "With Issue 12, we can invest more in our parks and recreation program, and restore much of the programming cut already this year."

There is no known organized group opposing Issue 12.

Barr said he looks forward to the possibilities for improvements to existing parks and amenities, if the issue is approved.

"Myself and the parks and recreation staff (would) continue to serve and promote quality of life amenities residents look forward to for daily use," he said. "It will allow us to continue what we're doing and bring more."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla