By Michelle Dupler
Franklin Township has its eye on economic development, but just how to accomplish that remains a question.
Township trustees at the Jan. 16 meeting, discussed the potential creation of either a joint economic development district or a joint economic development zone in partnership with Columbus.
Such a district or zone would allow the township to levy income tax on net profits from businesses in the township and on income earned by people who work in the township but live elsewhere. No income tax would be levied on township residents.
Trustee Tim Guyton said a JEDD or JEDZ would be a win-win for township residents because it would bring in money to the township to improve their quality of life without costing them additional taxes.
A JEDZ would require approval of township voters to levy an income tax. No voter approval is required for the JEDD because its boundaries cannot be drawn to include any residences. A majority of the property owners within the proposed boundaries would have to approve a JEDD.
The money coming in from a JEDZ or JEDD has to be used for purposes of the zone or district, but Don Brosius, the township’s lawyer, said those terms are fairly broad and the trustees could choose to use it for services such as police and fire that benefit the township as a whole.
“You have a lot of discretion,” he said.
Despite a recent agreement with Columbus that would pay the township $39 million over 50 years, the township still is facing shortfalls in its police and fire budgets that the money from the agreement won’t cover.
The fire department in particular has been hit by elimination of a state tax on personal property plus a need to replace several expensive pieces of equipment. Chief Rick Howard anticipates needing to put a levy on the ballot in November to try once again to convince township residents to fund the fire department. Two identical levies that would have brought in $800,000 per year failed in 2013.
“We have cut to the bone as it is now,” Howard said.
Don Cook, chairman of the board of trustees, agreed with the need for a levy on the ballot in November, but with the hopes that economic development will bring in enough money that the trustees could opt not to collect the levy dollars in the future.
“Let’s see what money comes in. Maybe we can roll the levy back,” Cook said.