Worthington News

JEDZ issue withdrawn but will be on ballot

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The proposal to create an income tax in Perry Township has been withdrawn from the May 6 ballot at the request of the township trustees.

The trustees voted 2-1 on April 10 to request that the Franklin County Board of Elections withdraw the ballot question, which would have resulted in a 2.5-percent income tax on businesses and on people working in the township if approved.

Because ballots already have been printed, the issue will appear on the ballot, but votes will not count.

The withdrawal is expected to calm a firestorm of controversy created when businesses, employees and residents learned of plans to create a joint economic development zone (JEDZ) via a partnership with Worthington for the purpose of placing an income-tax issue on the ballot.

Ohio law does not allow townships to collect income taxes unless they are part of a JEDZ. Under this agreement, Worthington, as the administrator, would have collected 20 percent of the revenue. The tax was expected to raise about $290,000 a year from nearly two dozen businesses.

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

"A majority of the trustees felt uncomfortable moving forward because of concerns of a couple of businesses where employees would be negatively impacted," Chaney said.

He voted against removing the issue from the ballot. Voting in favor were trustees Andy English and James Roper.

Chaney said he was disappointed, saying the concerns of the businesses could have been addressed without removing the tax issue from the ballot.

Specifically, a provision that would have collected the tax for 90 years could have been amended to 25 or 30 years after the election, and businesses that were going to lose money could have been made whole with grant programs, he said.

Most workers in the township already pay income tax, but it goes to the municipality in which they live. If the issue were approved, those taxes would have been diverted to Perry Township.

Approximately 20 people work and live in the township. Their income tax would have gone from zero to 2.5 percent.

Businesses also would have paid 2.5 percent of net profits.

Two businesses, Nikolas M. Savko & Sons and Lincoln Construction, and resident William Lehner, filed a protest in February, asking that the elections board remove the issue from the ballot. The elections board dismissed that protest March 4. The plaintiffs then filed a similar suit with the Franklin County Court of Appeals.

In both cases, it was alleged that Perry Township trustees had violated the state's open-meetings law when they discussed the proposed tax in closed meetings last fall.

Others at township meetings called the issue "taxation without representation" because it would be voted on by township residents but levied on township businesses and workers.

Chaney said he doesn't see the issue returning in November because it would have to be settled by June to file in time with the Board of Elections.

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