Licking County News

Etna could pose JEDZ to voters by Nov. 4

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Etna Township will host an information session on a proposed joint economic-development zone at 6 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Etna Township Hall, 81 Liberty St.

Township Administrator Rob Platte said the township and Reynoldsburg have reached an agreement that would allow Reynoldsburg to collect a 1.5 percent income tax on 1,497 acres in Etna Township at each corner of Interstate 70 and state Route 310 and the remaining properties in the Etna Corporate Park.

The JEDZ would incorporate 58 parcels and corporate park businesses that include Ascena Retail Group, Best Lighting Products, Michael Shank Racing and the Ridge Corp.

Platte said the public hearing is required by law to establish the JEDZ.

However, the decision to establish a JEDZ ultimately would be up to Etna voters.

Platte said the JEDZ is under consideration for the Nov. 4 general election ballot. The filing deadline is Aug. 6, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's website.

If changes are made to the agreement as a result of the information session, both Etna Township and Reynoldsburg would have to amend legislation, Platte said.

Reynoldsburg City Council has scheduled a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, for a proposal to enter into the JEDZ agreement with Etna Township. The proposal also is on Reynoldsburg's finance committee agenda for Monday and a special City Council meeting is scheduled after the committee meetings so members can vote on the ordinance as an emergency measure.

Platte said the JEDZ could generate $400,000 annually, with 70 percent going to Etna Township, 20 percent to Reynoldsburg and 10 percent to a JEDZ-improvement fund.

Platte said JEDZ agreements support economic development by helping townships -- which cannot levy an income tax -- to raise funds for infrastructure improvements.

"The intent is to facilitate economic development by maintaining current infrastructure and creating new infrastructure that will bring new companies in," he said.

Etna Township officials would use JEDZ funds for road projects, such as the state's planned improvements to the state Route 310 bridge that spans Interstate 70, Platte said.

The $12.5 million bridge project will be funded by $6.5 million from the Mid-Ohio Regional Development Commission and $3.5 million in federal funds. Etna Township is expected to pay the rest, approximately $2.5 million, Platte said.

The state plans to replace the bridge deck, increase the number of lanes and provide pedestrian access across I-70 with a concrete sidewalk on the bridge.

Platte said there has been controversy surrounding the agreement and he hopes township officials can answer questions about the project May 5.

In December, the Licking County Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Etna Township trustees, opposing the JEDZ.

"As you each have been advised previously, the Licking County Chamber of Commerce has taken a formal position in opposition to the proposed imposition of a JEDD/JEDZ -- particularly, its imposition over existing, operating businesses," the letter said.

The chamber questioned "contemplated roadwork projects ... which the JEDD/JEDZ is intended to remedy," the letter said.

The chamber also suggested the JEDZ would be a detriment to economic development.

"Most importantly, we are concerned that imposition of an income tax will create a significant deterrent to new businesses considering locating or expanding in Etna Township," the letter said. "It is a clear deterrent to expansion for those companies currently doing business within the township.

"The JEDD/JEDZ proposal would impose taxes on existing businesses and those businesses' employees," the letter said. "Many of these companies located in Etna Township made significant investments in not only their facilities, but in infrastructure costs. This proposed tax will generate no additional or expanded services to these businesses."

The letter was signed by chamber President Cheri Hottinger.

Platte said some people also have asked if the income tax will would paid in addition to what the corporate park's employees already pay in communities where they live.

Platte said most communities offer an income-tax credit for people who work outside the community in which they live.

"If you live in a community that imparts an income tax and you receive a credit, which most communities do, you won't see an increase," Platte said. "All this really does is redirect the income-tax dollars from the city you live in to the city or township that you work in."

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