Gahanna City Council members will review a proposed contract for a joint economic development zone with Jefferson Township next week, with the ultimate goal of attracting businesses.
During the Nov. 25 council committee meeting, development director Anthony Jones provided an overview of the plan to bring new or expanded growth for commercial or economic development. He said the city administration has been examining the idea of a JEDZ with Jefferson Township for several months.
Per state law, townships aren't permitted to 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.
Gahanna has a 1.5-percent income tax.
Jones said the partnership would make the communities more competitive in the region and open up new opportunities for job creation.
"Gahanna is landlocked," he said. "This would allow us to leverage our capacity. During this process, a large project was presented to the city involving 40 acres. We didn't have it."
He said Jefferson Township is in a reaction mode, in terms of economic development, and township leaders want to attract commercial development.
"This would be one way to accomplish that," Jones said.
Township administrator Tom Spring said Jefferson has to focus on economic development just to be sustainable.
Jefferson Township began looking at the possibility of a JEDZ for revenue in March 2012, after unsuccessful levy attempts.
"A JEDZ requires a partner," Spring said. "We felt it made sense, from a geographic standpoint, and we have a mutual interest in schools. We wanted to make our initial approach with the city of Gahanna. They have welcomed us. We also explored potential opportunities for shared services in other areas."
The initial plan shows the net JEDZ revenue would be distributed as follows: Gahanna-Jefferson and Licking Heights schools, combined 4 percent via a school-safety grant program; Jefferson Township JEDZ area improvements, 6 percent; Jefferson Township, 70 percent; and city of Gahanna, 20 percent.
"We would use RITA (Regional Income Tax Agency) to collect the income taxes," Jones said. "There would be an administration fee to collect. A JEDZ board would have to be established."
He said the proposed zone would include areas along Taylor Station Road.
Council member Brandon Wright questioned the voting history of Jefferson Township residents, where the issue would be placed before voters.
"It isn't a tax on residents," Jones said. "It's a tax on workers in the JEDZ zone."
Spring said the ballot language would ask that the agreement between the city and township be approved.
"It doesn't show a tax on the ballot per se," he said. "Our fire levies are approved every time. The roads and parks levies (haven't been passing). This approach became available to us. It's a different tax structure."
Spring said the people who vote on the issue usually aren't affected by the JEDZ until they work in the JEDZ.
Council member Brian Larick said he had met with Spring at the end of last year to discuss what the township was considering.
"This is fundamentally a township initiative," he said. "It's referred to as Jefferson Gahanna JEDZ."
Larick said the schools also are an important part of the plan.
"I feel strongly and the group felt strongly a portion of the funds help enhance safety and security of staff and students," he said. "While this isn't an end-all, it's a way to improve security in facilities. I think it makes us a better community and another way to partner."
Jones said council would have a final version of the JEDZ plan for discussion at the next committee meeting Dec. 9.
He said the city and township must approved the JEDZ contract, JEDZ map and economic development plan before Feb. 5. That's the deadline for the township to submit the proposal to the Franklin County Board of Elections for a vote by township voters in May.
If it's approved by voters, the JEDZ could be effective mid-2014, Jones said.