Grandview Heights made an alliance with Clinton Township last year called a Joint Economic Development Zone. The council has been making various changes to the agreement and setting up accounts for the money as late as June of 2014. Also this summer the Ohio state legislature has voted to eliminate the formation of any new JEDZ between cities and townships.
The simple explanation of the JEDZ is “Grandview uses its taxing authority to levy income taxes on Clinton Twp. businesses, and shares the funds with the Twp.”. Things get a lot more complex in the implementation, but supporters of the tax say this is a way to fund new development in townships that struggle to pay for roads and services, because they don’t have the authority to create income taxes. Critics say this is a “tax grab” that was a misuse of the program, and have passed a bill to end new JEDZs.
How do you mentally map Franklin County? You might imagine the city of Columbus in a big splotch in the center, surrounded by 15 suburbs. Maybe you know about Clinton Twp. because of the signs at the Target on Olentangy Rd. If you have been here for a while you remember the New Rome scandal (a corrupt speed trap, now dissolved).
Click the photo above for a full sized view of the political map of Franklin county. The reality is a confusing maze of boundaries between 16 cities, 9 villages, and 17 townships. Islands within other city boundaries are common, separated by miles. Streets can change jurisdiction mid block, zig-zags run wild.
How Franklin County got so confusing would fill a long and boring book, but the quick story is that Ohio counties were divided into townships during the founding of the state, and city boundaries slowly ate up sections of the townships as they grew. But because small sections of the old townships could vote to keep themselves outside nearby cities, avoiding the taxes while receiving the advantages of new jobs, the map became Byzantine.
Mayor DeGraw on the Clinton Twp JEDZ
I asked mayor DeGraw to explain how Grandview got started on the JEDZ with Clinton Twp.
Clinton township came to us. They chose to talk with Upper Arlington, new Albany and us. They felt these 3 communities could help them with economic development and they liked what was going on in the 3 communities. New Albany was not interested. They did not like the UA proposal or the way they were treated. So they chose us. We were approached a few years ago by Prairie but it did not work out. We were not sure about pursuing it. Really not located in an area of common interest and our tax rate was higher than anyone else at the time. Now more communities at 2 1/2. The common interest in our area development and the development occurring in the area makes sense for us to work with Clinton Twp. Supports 315 corridor plan. . We are the closest community to them on the west side except of course Columbus.
The deal with Clinton Twp. seems like a real moneymaker for the city, I asked if the deal that was passed was normal.
Our proposal of a 20% plus expenses up to 2% made sense to them and is common. We also offered to provide economic development help.
Shortly after the deal passed, there were amendments that changed to boundaries. I asked why?
Amendments are due to a couple of things. First there was the timing on passage. We had to adjust the date because there are only so many days one community has to pass it after the first community passed it. Almost all the other changes were a result of adjusting the properties that are identified as commercial. There was not good data base of commercial properties with no one living in them. It is important not to include any property in the Jezz that has someone living there. So there were a number of adjustments as we went through the property. I think there was also a Couple of technical issues. Can get a breakdown if you wish.
Council also approved legislation to create a joint economic development fund for the deposit of the tax payments the city collects. What specifically will that money be used for?
The fund you ask about will collect the tax money of which 80% will be sent to Clinton Twp after expenses. It is identified what will go to their economic development of that money. Grandview will keep the remaining 20% to do with what council directs. There has been some talk about our share going to an economic development fund. Council can direct. Unless directed differently it will go in the general fund. (note – this question was asked in March, the answer may be different now).
The Dispatch had a story about JEZ in Ohio, called “License to Plunder”. How do you respond?
Saw the article. Yes a city at one end of the state could work with a township at the other end with no common interest. Obviously not the intent. I think more that a land grab it is a way for townships to try and raise money due to State cuts. They are really limited on funding opportunities and have no taxing authority.
In our case I believe it makes sense to work together.
We are still in the early stages of this JEDZ, I’m not sure if much has been done beyond set up the funding. I don’t see any downside to the deal for Grandview, unless Clinton Twp. would use the money in some illegal way and drag Grandview into a scandal. More on this as results from the JEDZ are announced by the city.