City officials should know in June whether companies in the New Albany International Business Park will begin footing part of the bill for a local shuttle service.
The SmartRide New Albany shuttles provide transportation for business-park employees from the Central Ohio Transit Authority Park & Ride on Forest Drive in New Albany and their places of employment, said Jennifer Chrysler, New Albany's community-development director.
Towne Park is the company contracted to operate the shuttles, said city spokesman Scott McAfee.
New Albany pays $130,000 annually for the shuttle service, McAfee said. That fee includes other uses for the buses, such as when the city needs to conduct tours of the business park for potential tenants, he said.
The actual annual cost to the city for the Park & Ride shuttle service is $110,000 to $120,000, he said.
The city is finalizing an agreement with all three of its business-park associations -- the New Albany Business Park Association, the New Albany Business Park East Association and the Business Campus at New Albany Association Inc. -- to provide a contribution toward the SmartRide program, according to a March 6 New Albany City Council legislative report.
Chrysler said she is trying to complete the agreement as soon as possible. Her goal is to have it finished by June 1, she said, and the agreement would be effective for the 2018 calendar year.
Each business in the park would pay a $35-per-acre charge toward the cost of the shuttle service, according to the legislative report. Those contributions are estimated to total $57,000 for 2018.
The business-park associations already provide maintenance to public improvements and landscaping in the business park, including street trees, leisure trails and park benches, said Bill Ebbing, president of the New Albany Co.
Membership in one of the associations is mandatory for all businesses within the park, he said. The businesses pay dues on a per-acre basis that changes annually and from association to association, he said.
Not counting office buildings, New Albany's economic-development website, newalbanybusiness.org, lists 51 businesses as being part of the New Albany International Business Park.
Although the estimated contributions for SmartRide are $57,000 this year, that amount will change from year to year as businesses come and go, Ebbing said.
"We're constantly looking at any services or amenities that can be provided to the business park that allows for the businesses to be more successful," he said. "This is certainly one of those items."
Eventually, the goal is to have the city pay 30 percent of the cost of the shuttle service and the remainder funded by outside sources, McAfee said.
"We wanted to support the business park and our business partners by helping to put business infrastructure in place," he said.
The business park generated more than $68 million in revenue for the New Albany-Plain Local School District from 1998 to 2017, McAfee said.
The $68 million figure is a combination of revenue from income and property taxes, he said. Whenever property-tax abatements are established, the city shares income taxes with the school district in lieu of property-tax incentives granted to businesses.
In addition, last year, 84 percent of the city's general-fund revenue -- which funds services the city provides residents -- was generated by local income taxes, McAfee said. The local income-tax rate is 2 percent, and the park has about 15,000 employees, he said.
"The health of the business park has a direct impact on the level of services the city can provide," he said.