Could Preserving its Reservoirs be a Money Maker for Akron?

Feb 1, 2016

A task force is suggesting that Akron could address three problems at once by rethinking what it does with its reservoirs. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has this highlight from a report today on how the city could operate better.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force presented about a hundred suggestions to Mayor Dan Horrigan. One singled out for special notice is the possibility of raising money by selling conservation easements at Akron’s reservoirs to companies that want a tax break for keeping the land from being developed.  

Tom Chema says the easements take a variety of forms.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

  Tom Chema, a consultant who worked with the task force, says ensuring the reservoirs remain pristine could help with a second issue, the city’s billion-dollar sewer project. 

“One needs to try to improve the water quality not only after the water is going into the sewage system and then back into the Cuyahoga River, but if you can protect and eliminate some of that water from getting into the system in the first place, you’re ahead."

A third benefit, he says, is that the easements could protect the city’s water supply from a new state law that gives property owners adjacent to reservoirs authority to cut brush and do other work on reservoir property.

While the task force focused on ways to manage the city better and cut costs, it also is warning that a hike in the income tax may be in Akron’s future.

The report told Horrigan he may  “need to explore increasing the city’s income tax rate.” But it strongly recommended that the city look first at savings and other incremental ways to raise revenue.

 

The report noted that Akron – and other cities – have struggled since the state cut the tangible property tax, inheritance tax and local government funds. It also says Akron has high retirement costs and debt.