Newark Must Commute

            The news last week included the decision by the Etna township trustees to accept a bid for the paving of some of the township roads. Gannet presented this in a Pataskala Standard story by Larry Fugate (4-22-13). “It appears little township cash will be used for the four projects.” For one the township will assess the homeowners on the street, another the township has received a previous Ohio Public Works Commission grant, and the final two are in the industrial/commercial area off state route 40 (non-residential). Of these one will be funded by the Joint Economic Development Zone that it is included in, the other through moneys provided by JobsOhio and Columbus 20/20. The latter two and their source of revenue have been covered in previous posts. Assessing homeowners for sewer, water line, etc. is the methodology for specific area improvements based on a user pays sensibility, again employed primarily residentially. The Ohio Public Works Commission is a state agency institute for providing assistance for, well, public works. Joint Economic Development Zones (and/or Districts) are contracts made between municipalities, townships, etc. for exchanged/shared services. Wiki, various OSU extension publications, etc. give subtle differences and nuances to what defines a District and a Zone. “Development” with real estate generally means an “improvement” on the “unimproved” land. If a barn is placed on a farm field, it is considered an improvement and the land has been developed. Turning a monoculture agriculture acreage into a biodiverse community garden is not considered development. Single unit residential housing bulldozed to make way for multi-story, multi-unit rentals is considered improvement. Etc. The Ohio revised code gives municipalities, etc. the right to enter into these contracts. Originally, they were conceived to minimize the tension between large municipalities that would cherry pick adjoining township or small municipality territory for annexation to benefit commercial development. Under a JEDD or JEDZ, in exchange for receiving utility services like water/sewer/ etc. the smaller governments would receive tax revenue, provide fire/police, etc. The 11-16-12 This Week Licking County News (a Dispatch publication) article by Lori Wince describes Licking County’s JEDZ:

 

 “The JEDZ is a part of a joint economic-development agreement in Licking County, which includes land in the Etna Corporate Park. It includes the ProLogis properties along U.S. Route 40.

Under the JEDZ, local governments such as townships that do not collect an income tax may enter agreements with jurisdictions that have income taxes, such as cities, and apply the tax to the designated areas. The Newark income-tax rate is 1.75 percent of wages and net profits on business.

The funds may be used for various purposes, including maintaining roads and other infrastructure at the site and distributing the income-tax revenues to the participating entities. The term of the agreement is 30 years.

Revenues from the JEDZ are distributed as follows: 20 percent to an improvements fund that pays for roadways and infrastructure at the JEDZ property; 30 percent to Etna Township; 30 percent to Southwest Licking schools; 10 percent to the city of Newark; 5 percent to Licking County; 4.5 percent to the Newark Income Tax Department for administering the JEDZ; and 0.5 percent to the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County.”

 

To say that Newark is an adjoining municipality is a real stretch of the original intent of JEDZ’s and JEDD’s. Even a quick glance at a county map shows that to be Pataskala and Reynoldsburg (which sits mainly in Franklin county). Pataskala has had a great deal of trouble funding its own municipal services after its huge land annexation. It must be Newark’s “deep pockets” (in the parlance of our litigious culture) that made it adjoining. In exchange for its financial services, Newark has potential employment for its human resource(s) while Etna and Pataskala receive all the real (estate) development and improvement.

 

The 4-21-13 Lancaster Eagle Gazette (Gannet) ran an article on concerns that Lancaster may become a “bedroom community”. It reported the 2011 US Census bureau shows 55.3% of Fairfield county residents work outside the county. Although part of this is attributed to communities in the county immediately adjoining Columbus, still it raises a concern with Lancaster city governance. Checking the same census, this blog’s author found that 45.4% of Licking County residents commute to out of county jobs. The same could be said for some western Licking county communities, but Newark’s engagement is not negligible. At one time it was reported that a third to one half of Newark’s workforce commutes out of the city.   Some issues are immediate. Newark invests in private development and improvement outside its own 21 square miles which necessitates an individual commute for each employee. The city utilizes its human resource in exchange for the tax revenue collected from their employment. Another more covert feature is the serendipitous relation of the 43% of residential housing in Newark that is rented and the percentage of those inhabitants who must commute outside the city to pay that rent. Again, as covered in previous blog postings, residential housing rental is one of the biggest, if not the largest business in Newark. With the JEDZ /JEDDs, CICs and various public/private partnerships, the private business pays no real estate tax for development and improvement for 15 years (half the JEDZ life) AND usually receives up to a 50% income tax abatement for doing so. The residents of Newark subsidize this through their rent payments (which cover the landlord’s real estate tax of their residential property) and their income tax, from a job that must pay enough to afford the employee’s commute (Licking County public transit is totally inadequate). Inconveniently, the children of these commuting workers do not accompany them to work. Street improvements, running a summer pool or recreation  programs, etc. are publicly (City of Newark) managed/funded, as are the schools (Newark City Schools). Historically, this scenario is not unusual for Newark. At the turn of the 19th to 20th century Newark was a rail hub and residence to the laborers who mined the coal in Perry county. A local historian informed me that as many as three trains carried folks out of Licking county each morning, returning them each night to their rented rooms and housing.  Sunday was a day off.

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