Officials from Prairie Township attended the July 20 meeting of the Westland Area Commission, where they made a pitch for the fall ballot issue aimed at fixing the township's budget woes.

Officials from Prairie Township attended the July 20 meeting of the Westland Area Commission, where they made a pitch for the fall ballot issue aimed at fixing the township's budget woes.

Commission members had plenty of questions after hearing their presentation.

Township administrator Tracy Hatmaker and trustee Steve Kennedy explained why the township will be putting a JEDZ (Joint Economic Development Zone) issue on the November ballot.

"Prairie Township is facing deep cuts," Hatmaker said, as the state significantly reduces Local Government Fund allocation.

"Since 2007 the general fund revenue as a whole has dropped 26 percent from then to the present," he said. "That is a significant reduction in revenue."

Hatmaker told the commission that the township started its budgeting process by passing a preliminary 2012 budget based on current fiscal conditions. In order not to spend more than the township takes in, he said, drastic reductions were made.

Those reductions include cutting $50,000 from the zoning department; cutting the road maintenance program in half; cutting $17,000 in administrative costs; eliminating the senior center; and reducing the contract with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department by 20 percent.

While the township has explored opportunities of initiating a JEDD (Joint Economic Development District), there is another version of the JEDD that the township will pursue for the fall ballot called a JEDZ (Joint Economic Development Zone).

The main difference between the two is that businesses petition into a JEDD, while residents can put a JEDZ up for a vote, Hatmaker said. With the residents voting on a JEDZ, the township has discovered a way to collect a 2-percent income tax on businesses.

"The focus is to expand the tax base without burdening Prairie Township residents," Hatmaker said. "The village of Obetz is a partner in this."

Commission members were confused about the role of Obetz, a community that isn't situated near Prairie Township.

Kennedy explained that state statute prohibits townships from collecting an income tax. By partnering with the village of Obetz, the township has struck a deal in which Obetz collects the tax and gives the township a portion.

"We have enticed a partnership with Obetz for an 80-20 deal," Kennedy said.

In other words, Obetz will act as the administrator of the JEDZ, collect the 2-percent tax from businesses within the corridor, give the township 80 percent of what it collects and keep the remaining 20 percent.

In addition to businesses paying a 2-percent tax, the JEDZ will allow the township to capture revenue from employees who work in the corridor. The JEDZ will not increase taxes to Prairie Township residents, but instead will redirect tax money back into the township from those individuals who work, but do not reside, in the township.

Kennedy said the only downside of the JEDZ is that businesses will be taxed for the first time. The township's two major employers, Doctors Hospital and South-Western City Schools, have already been notified of the ballot initiative, he said.

"The hospital and schools understood our needs," Kennedy said. "Both said there would be no issues if the residents vote it in."

WAC member Bill Van Order asked how the township would be able to attract businesses if it tacks on a 2-percent income tax.

Kennedy said 2 percent is among the lowest in the surrounding municipalities. Also, the money captured by the JEDZ will go toward improving the surrounding area and will help entice businesses to the corridor.

Kennedy said money captured from the JEDZ will also go toward increasing police protection and the creation of a community center that will serve the entire Westland area.

"This gives us the funding means for that to actually happen," Kennedy said. "We don't want to cut the quality of life. We want to increase the quality of life. We are exploring unique ways to do this.

"In the end, the voters have the final say."