Rocky Fork Enterprise

Jefferson Township voters to decide JEDZ May 6

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Jefferson Township residents will have a say in whether a joint economic development zone contract is approved between the township and city of Gahanna.

During a Jan. 31 special township trustee meeting, a resolution was approved to submit the proposal to residents on the May 6 ballot.

If the JEDZ is approved by voters, Township Administrator Tom Spring said, it would generate approximately $1 million annually to support township services to the JEDZ area or zone, both directly through economic development and support, and indirectly, through sustaining the continuance of general township services that benefit the township, including the zone.

Passage would subject people who work in the JEDZ area to Gahanna's 1.5-percent income tax. The city would retain 20 percent of the revenue for administering collections.

Spring said the zone generally centers on business corridors in the southern portion of the township and government, school and active recreational areas.

Township trustee Chairman Mike Rowan told ThisWeek state funding has been cut pretty drastically and some revenue sources have been taken away or eliminated.

"This is a way to generate revenue from businesses and employees from those businesses," he said. "It's not a township-wide income tax. It only affects those who work in the JEDZ."

Spring said the people who vote on the issue usually aren't affected by the JEDZ unless they work in the JEDZ.

"For the majority of people living in a city, they're already paying an income tax," Rowan said. "This allows us to redirect some money, so we can provide the services they need while in the township."

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.

Gahanna has a 1.5-percent income tax.

Gahanna Development Director Anthony Jones said the city would use the Regional Income Tax Agency to collect the income taxes if the zone is approved.

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.

Rowan said township residents have always been very supportive.

"They have the expectation to keep the township rural," he said. "The beauty is why people live here. Some people felt it would encourage development, but that was never the intent. There were some properties already commercial or had the potential to be commercial in the future.

"We basically redefined the (JEDZ) along Taylor Road and south of Taylor Road, with the exception of township properties and the schools."

He believes residents who understand the JEDZ will support it.

Jefferson Township began looking at the possibility of a JEDZ for revenue in March 2012, after unsuccessful levy attempts.

Spring has said it made sense to partner with Gahanna from a geographic standpoint and due to a mutual interest in schools.

If it is approved May 6, the JEDZ could be effective by mid-2014, Jones said.

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