After unsuccessful levy attempts, Jefferson Township could look to a joint economic-development zone for revenue.

After unsuccessful levy attempts, Jefferson Township could look to a joint economic-development zone for revenue.

The township discussed additional sources of revenue with attorney Don Brosius on March 23, trustees chair Mike Rowan said.

"It was just an initial meeting to investigate options to see what the potential revenues could be," he said. "It looks very promising. It's complicated. We'll have to investigate to look at options to see if it would work for us."

According to township administrator Tom Spring, the township's general-fund revenue has decreased from $992,300 in 2006 to $876,790 in 2011.

Per state law, townships can't collect income taxes. In the mid-1990s, however, lawmakers gave townships a tax-sharing alternative. By allowing townships to find a municipal partner that has an income tax in place, a JEDZ could be created, with the municipal partner serving as administrator.

The zone typically includes a commercial district, and the taxes pass through the municipality that also receives a portion of the revenue, along with the township.

Voters in all areas that would be affected must approve any JEDZ.

Nearby Etna Township in 2004 entered its first JEDZ agreement with the city of Newark, before Pataskala had an income tax in place. The agreement, which also included the Southwest Local School District and C-TEC of Licking County, helped pave the way for the development of 237 acres in Etna Corporate Park.

The approval process was begun when the Southwest Licking school district and the C-TEC school boards gave their approval for Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) and Enterprise Zone agreements with Denver-based ProLogis, one of the world's largest industrial-park developers.

The agreements give ProLogis - and any potential tenants of the development - a 15-year, 100-percent tax abatement on buildings and property at the site.

Under the income-tax plan, C-TEC receives 0.5 percent of revenue collected through taxable wages. According to estimates supplied by ProLogis - based on the company's past experience with a corporate park near Grove City - C-TEC could realize about $4,000 a year, or approximately $114,000 over the lifetime of the agreement.

Southwest Licking and Etna Township each would receive 30 percent of the collections; a JEDZ governing board, which would be created with representatives of each of the parties, would receive 20 percent, to be used for infrastructure improvements; the city of Newark would receive 14.5 percent, with 10 percent dedicated to further economic development planning for the city and 4.5 percent for administrative costs of collecting and distributing the income-tax proceeds.

Rob Klinger, Licking County's former economic development manager, said at the time that the county's share of 5 percent would be for facilitation of the relationships and administrative costs.

The ProLogis estimates are for annual payrolls of slightly more than $30-million, he said, generating $525,150 in individual income tax, based on a total development of the site. The average job could pay as much as $12.70 an hour to start.

Prairie Township, in partnership with Obetz, received voter approval for a JEDZ in November. The JEDZ is limited to nonresidential areas so that residents aren't burdened with increases in taxes for the majority of those living or owning property in the township.

Brosius worked on the Prairie Township JEDZ and has experience in the matter, Rowan said.

Jefferson Township needs a municipal partner, and although Gahanna is a close neighbor, the law is written in such a way that the partner could be "anyone," he said.

"They don't have to be contiguous," Rowan said. "It's a matter of who is interested in partnering."

The township doesn't have many options to generate revenue, he said.

"In the past, levies have been our only option," Rowan said. "This is a new idea a few townships have proposed. We have enough information we can start thinking about areas of the township that might be appropriate for a joint economic zone, who we might partner with and what we would do with the money if it were approved."

Funding options have to be considered to provide high-quality services to the community, Spring said.

According to Spring, the $124,000 the township received from the state in Local Government Funds in 2011 could be cut in half. Additionally, he said, the township faces a reduction in real-estate values, the elimination of the estate tax that has averaged more than $100,000 a year in revenue and other state budget cuts.

Spring said he is working on appropriations and anticipates another lean budget.

"It's a question of where we go from here," he said.