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Prairie Twp. continues campaign to pass JEDZ
Prairie Township officials continue to campaign for the proposed joint economic development zone (JEDZ) which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
If passed, the JEDZ would create a 2 percent income tax for the commercial strip of West Broad Street between I-270 and Hilliard-Rome Road.
This tax would provide a new, untapped stream of revenue for the township.
Ninety percent of Franklin County residents live in municipalities, said Prairie Township Administrator Tracy Hatmaker, and income taxes on businesses within the township are going to a worker’s home city.
“We think there are plenty of these cases,” Hatmaker said. “We’re directing that money back to the township.”
Prairie Township Trustee Doug Stormont said the JEDZ recovers money that is normally lost.
The township voted to create a cooperative economic development agreement (CEDA) with the village of Obetz on Oct. 5.
Ohio law states municipalities such as cities or villages may levy income taxes, but townships cannot. Hatmaker said the township and Obetz complement each other.
Since Obetz directs its attention toward industrial growth and the township wants to aim at businesses, there is no conflict of interest, Hatmaker said. They can work together to improve both areas.
Hatmaker said it is unclear how much revenue the JEDZ could produce in total, because the township is not privy to the payroll amounts of local businesses, because that is private information. However, he estimates the JEDZ would exceed revenue of $1 million per year toward the CEDA.
Forty percent of the JEDZ money would go directly toward West Broad Street corridor improvements like streetscape, law enforcement and improving the infrastructure.
Obetz would keep an incentive of 20 percent and the remaining 40 percent returns to the township for improvement projects outside the commercial strip.
Obetz contracts with the city of Columbus to handle its taxes.
Hatmaker said most residents would not be affected by the JEDZ, because it is directed toward the business district and not residential areas. He added this is a way for township residents to control their taxes and maintain service levels.
Prairie Township proposed the JEDZ in face of a 50 percent funding cut from the state of Ohio over the next couple years.
If voters reject the JEDZ, township officials have stated they will be forced to cut services, including its Sheriff’s contract, community center, cuts to nuisance clean-up and other infrastructure programs like some road improvements.
“State cuts that forced the township to make ugly decisions has also forced innovation,” Hatmaker said.
The JEDZ contract would go into immediate effect and terminate after the standard time of 50 years on Dec. 31, 2061.
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