Rocky Fork Enterprise

Jefferson Township

JEDZ opposition group says issue is undemocratic

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A political action committee called Citizens Against Gahanna Taxation in Jefferson Township is campaigning against Issue 25, a proposed joint economic development zone that's before Jefferson Township voters May 6.

Eric W. Stover, treasurer of the PAC, attended Gahanna City Council meeting April 21 with several other township employees to ask that the issue be removed from the ballot.

He said he had received a "cease and desist" order about disseminating inaccurate campaign information from Gahanna Mayor Becky Stinchcomb last week, and he thought it would be beneficial to attend the meeting to have a clear line of communication.

Stover told ThisWeek he first attended a township meeting in late January, when he learned about the proposed JEDZ. The grassroots PAC was formed two months later, he said, supported by about 500 employees from commercial properties within the proposed zone.

"I think employees are upset," he said. "The businesses are standing with us in the PAC."

The proposed JEDZ would subject people who work in a defined area to Gahanna's 1.5-percent income tax that would be collected by the Regional Income Tax Agency. The JEDZ area would include businesses between Taylor Road and the township's southern border in Reynoldsburg. It also would include businesses that are adjacent to Gahanna, as well as school district and government properties within the unincorporated area of the township.

Stover: Selection process seems suspect

Stover said one the main areas of contention is how the parcels were selected for the JEDZ.

He said 168 parcels originally were chosen to be in the zone, but the number was lowered to 96 in nine days.

"It excluded the country club and a former trustee's business," Stover said. "It didn't sit well that some were left in the zone and some not."

He said he met with township trustees chairman Mike Rowan and township administrator Tom Spring about the new map.

"We had a meeting about why they felt it was necessary, and they stood firm they wanted to keep it in place," Stover said. "Ultimately, it was an agree to disagree."

Rowan: Revisions were response to concerns

Rowan told ThisWeek the map was revised in response to township residents' concerns.

"The original proposal was to include every commercial property," he said. "We got a lot of concerns. Residents were very vocal."

Rowan said residents were worried about bringing commercial growth to the heart of the township.

"They thought it would change the character of the township," he said. "So we basically responded to their wishes. We said we would limit the JEDZ to the southern part of the township."

Rowan said the zone also includes township offices, the fire department, the service department and schools.

"We felt if we asked others to contribute, we shouldn't exclude ourselves," he said. "All township employees and the schools are included. Those who pay in get something back.

"We believe in this enough, we include ourselves. If I'm not willing to pay the tax myself, I'm not going to ask others."

Rowan said the revised map seemed to ease the concerns of some residents.

"We basically kept it (the JEDZ) where it's commercial," he said. "We eliminated anything north of Havens Corners Road. South of Havens, it's only government. When you get to Taylor, that's where the commercial starts. We isolated it to southern parts of the township, where we don't have residential property."

Rowan said many employees within the proposed JEDZ already pay an income tax to the municipality where they live, and the JEDZ would redirect some of those dollars to the township.

Stover: JEDZ would be new tax for some

Stover, co-owner of Besa Lighting in Blacklick, has about 30 employees who would be affected by the JEDZ.

He said some of his employees reside in areas that don't have an income tax.

"For a lot of people, they will see a new income tax or a partial increase," Stover said.

He said some municipalities limit the tax credit paid to another municipality.

"Some municipalities don't offer full credit," he said. "It's the employees' responsibility to try to get the credit. A city also has the ability to change the amount of credit."

Stover said he also doesn't like the fact that many of his employees won't get to vote on the proposed JEDZ, even though the vote's outcome will affect them.

Only township residents will vote on the measure.

"We feel that's undemocratic," he said.

Questions arise about city's intent to raise rate

Powell resident Perry Kotick, who works for Besa, also asked Gahanna City Council to remove the issue from the ballot.

He said he's aware the city of Gahanna tried to raise its income-tax rate last year.

"How do I know that it won't go up?" he said. "It could go up in the future. If Jefferson Township doesn't want the tax hike to happen, they would have no say in the matter. Jefferson would be bringing us into the tax but won't have a say in the future."

Mayor: JEDZ isn't a city income tax

Stinchcomb said in a letter to Stover that the JEDZ is not a Gahanna tax.

The parcels included in the JEDZ district are within the boundaries of Jefferson Township and therefore aren't subject to direct taxation by Gahanna.

She said any taxation within the district is levied by the JEDZ board, which would comprise three city and three township representatives.

Kotick said he sees the JEDZ as unjust.

Business owner removed from JEDZ
has issues with process

Jonathan Howard, representing Jess Howard Electric in Blacklick, told City Council his business was taken out of the JEDZ.

"I'm not sure how that happened," he said. "None of the employers in Jefferson Township were made aware. I raised a little stink. Magically, I was pulled out of the JEDZ. I feel Gahanna should encourage Jefferson Township to move away from the JEDZ. That's my personal opinion."

Howard said he had issues with the process.

Stinchcomb and Stover had polite and respectful dialogue concerning the proposed JEDZ prior to the April 21 meeting, including an exchange of letters regarding campaign information.

Stinchcomb said the dialogue had been good, though no minds were changed concerning the fundamental issue.

Stover said certain points were refined in the PAC's literature to better reflect the campaign, but he stands behind the cause against the JEDZ.

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