Worthington News

Elections board dismisses JEDZ protest

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The Franklin County Board of Elections on March 3 voted 4-0 to dismiss a protest that sought to remove from the May 6 ballot an income tax for people who work in Perry Township.

The owners of Nikolas M. Savko & Sons and Lincoln Construction, whose employees would pay the 2.5-percent income tax, and township resident William E. Lehner had asked the elections board to look into how trustees pursued the joint-economic-development-zone issue.

The JEDZ, as it is called, would allow the township to use the city of Worthington's taxing authority to tax all businesses and employees in the township. Without the JEDZ, townships are prohibited from levying income taxes.

The complaint filed Feb. 21 accused trustees of abusing executive-session provisions of state law that allow private meetings to discuss economic development. It said trustees had met in executive session Oct. 21 "for the exclusive announced purpose of secretly and privately discussing the JEDZ, in contravention of the Ohio Sunshine Law."

According to the complaint, Ohio law does permit executive sessions for existing JEDZs.

Minutes before the elections board's 2 p.m. meeting, Perry Township submitted a request to dismiss the protest, followed by a response from the protesters.

The township's motion stated trustees had not violated Ohio's Sunshine Law and that the elections board wouldn't have jurisdiction to determine whether the trustees had violated the law.

The protesters quickly filed a response, claiming Perry Township's motion misinterpreted the law and took sections of the law out of context.

The elections board's vote means the JEDZ issue will remain on the May ballot.

Trustees voted unanimously Jan 13 to place the proposal on the May ballot. Worthington City Council approved its part of the JEDZ on Jan. 6.

If approved by township voters, Worthington and Perry Township would create a board to administer the tax that is projected to raise about $292,000 a year.

Of that, 70 percent, or $196,246, would be paid to the township. Worthington would receive 20 percent, or $56,000. The rest, 10 percent or $28,000, would be used by the JEDZ board to cover expenses such as insurance and audits.

The tax, according to trustee Chet Chaney, would allow projects already on the books to be completed. They include improvements to the intersection of state Route 161 and Linworth Road, water issues on Bethel Road, construction of a multiuse path along Snouffer Road and drainage problems through the township.

"We always want residents to vote and we are adamant that they always have input," Chaney said. "It will be their decision to make. Hopefully, we will make a strong enough case that they will support it."

ThisWeek editor Scott Hummel contributed to this story.

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