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Columbus' Capital Improvements Budget Gets 130 Percent Increase

After a couple lean years, the city of Columbus plans to spent more money this year on capital projects - things like road repairs and new fire trucks. WOSU reports, the new spending is thanks to new tax money approved by voters last summer.

Before the income tax increase, as the city faced deep budget cuts, Columbus's capital budget nearly disappeared. Last year the budget rose to $57 million only after voters approved the hike. This year there's a lot more money for road resurfacing, renovated recreation centers and new sidewalks. This year's capital budget stands at $130 million - that's a 130 percent increase over last year.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said there likely would have been few or no capital projects this year if voters had not passed the 25 percent tax increase.

"We are returning an investment. And the return is those things that the public wants. They want better roadways, they want sidewalks, they want rec. centers. They want a quality of life that is sustainable," Coleman said.

To break it down, the city is spending $20 million on road resurfacing. The city plans to spend another $7 million to connect bike paths and build bike lanes. Other projects include new fire equipment, new sidewalks and housing for homeless veterans.

In the midst of the recession last year, the city faced cuts to basic services, layoffs and the closure of 12 recreation centers. This year, $14 million dollars will go toward improving recreation facilities, pools and playgrounds. Alan McKnight heads the city's recreation and parks department.

"It'll be a variety of work in a lot of different centers around the city," McKnight said.

McKnight said the Martin Janis Senior Center will get a new roof. Other centers will get new energy efficient windows or heating and cooling systems.

There also are plans to build a new health center on the city's South Side. That part of town does not have a hospital. And it has few options for public health care.

"The issues are so significant and the need for more public access to health care is so significant that we're going to build a new health care center at the old Schottenstein site," Mayor Coleman said.

$675,000 has been committed to the center's design. It will be designed this year and built over the next several years. The total cost of the project is estimated to be more than $6.1 million.