On a split vote, Grove City Council on Monday, Nov. 18, approved entering into an economic development agreement that opponents have called a "punitive tax grab."
Council voted 3-2 to authorize City Administrator Chuck Boso to enter the city into a joint economic development district with Scioto Township and the Village of Commercial Point, over objections from prison employees who work in the district at two facilities run by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Councilman Steve Bennett, Councilwoman Maria Klemack-McGraw and Councilwoman Melissa Albright voted for the JEDD, while Council President Ted Berry and Councilman Jeff Davis dissented.
This is the third time this JEDD had come up for a vote, but both previous times -- in July and September -- council voted to postpone the decision.
Under a JEDD agreement, a city administrates and imposes its income tax rate to a designated area within a township, which lacks the power under Ohio law to impose an income tax. The city and township then share the local income tax revenue based on a formula agreed to in the JEDD contract.
City officials have projected pulling in $100,000 annually from Grove City's share -- 10 percent of the income. Scioto Township will receive , 88 percent, and the Commercial Point will get 2 percent.
The approved JEDD will be composed of more than an acre at the northwest portion of of state Route 104 and Southern Street, within Scioto Township; half an acre within Commercial Point near Hiner Road, Strawser Street, Mattox Court and McCord Road; and 1,319 acres of land owned by the state in Scioto Township, near state Route 762 -- where two state prisons are located.
The JEDD imposes Grove City's 2 percent income tax on state prison employees at the Pickaway Correctional Institution, 11781 state Route 762, and the Correctional Reception Center, 11271 state Route 762, who currently don't pay a local income tax.
"It is simply a tax grab," said Brian Liff, an ODRC employee. "They want a blank check."
The councils of both the township and village previously approved the JEDD.
"The money will create jobs and foster growth," said Village Point Mayor Joe Hammond. "With the JEDD, we can assist you."
Terry Brill, a Scioto Township trustee, said the money would be used to provide infrastructure for development. When asked by council, Brill said he would like to see 50 percent of the money go to the township fire department and the rest going to maintaining roads and instituting police protecting in the township.
"We need better roads, we need better police protection and we need fire protection," he said. "Vote for the JEDD for the good of both our communities."
Berry, who had proposed a defeated amendment that would have tied council's authorization of the agreement to a vote of the electors in Scioto Township, said he had issue with the fact the township's three previous attempts at a fire levy had been defeated by voters.
"JEDDs are meant to be a partnership and collaboration," he said. "You're coming to us because you can't get your message to the voters. That's what I have a problem with."
Davis said the measure felt "contrived."
"I have no reason to believe this is not a legal JEDD," he said. "That doesn't necessarily, to me, demand we be a partner in this."
Klemack-McGraw said the township and village have been good partners on Grove City projects.
""Now it is our turn to return the favor to assist Scioto Township and Commercial Point," she said. "This will also benefit the residents of Grove City."
Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said he vacillated many times on the JEDD before deciding in favor of it.
"We are neighbors," he said. "We do have reciprocal agreements."
If the Scioto Township Fire Division can't provide service to its residents, that would mean the Jackson Township Division of Fire would be pulled away on call, Stage said.
"My opinion is the JEDD is legal, it has value and it has a lot of merit," he said.
Stage added that if Grove City didn't approve JEDD, someone else would.
Albright said she wasn't sure of her position right up until the vote.
"I understand it's legal," she said. "I don't know it's right."
Albright said ultimate, Scioto Township and Village Point are neighbors.
"If they're not safe, if they're not secure, they're pulling our services," Albright said.