Columbus may share casino tax with Franklin Township

on Monday, 15 October 2012.

Columbus has tentatively agreed to pay the township an average of $760,000 per year

Columbus would share more than $38 million of its future tax revenue from the Hollywood Casino with Franklin Township under a proposed agreement.

Columbus has tentatively agreed to pay the township an average of $760,000 per year for 50 years to compensate for the potential taxes the township lost when the casino site was annexed to the city last year. Some of that money would come from the property taxes Columbus collects from the casino site. The rest would come from a rising share of income taxes the casino and its employees pay to the city over that time.

The payments assume that the city’s income-tax collections from the casino will be $4.6 million annually, according to a township memo detailing the draft agreement. It does not take into account the taxes the casino is required to pay on its revenue by the amendment to the state constitution that allowed it to be built.

Franklin Township is pleased with the plan, said Tim Guyton, trustees chairman, acknowledging that it needs the approval of township trustees and the Columbus City Council.

“We were receiving under $70,000 a year when it was a vacant piece of ground,” he said. “And now you see the numbers. Are we happy? We’re elated.”

In addition to the proposed agreement, the township is planning a joint economic-development agreement with Columbus that could bring in millions more.

That pact would be similar to one Prairie Township has with Obetz, in which income taxes from businesses along W. Broad Street are shifted to the township and Obetz, which acts as tax administrator. Prairie Township expects to raise more than $1 million annually.

The Columbus agreement should be finalized by the end of the year, said Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

“The mayor has said all along, since late 2009, that we have every intention of treating Franklin Township fairly. We have a major development” in the casino, he said, “and expect to produce a significant amount of revenue.”

“We’re going to come to an agreement that both sides are happy with,” Williamson said.

Guyton said some of the money will be used for street improvements along W. Broad Street near the casino. The rest has been spread over 50 years.

“It is my goal to not squander this money away but protect it for future boards of trustees,” he wrote in an email.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is asking the township for at least $100,000 to spend on trees, plantings, banners and other beautification over the next two years. But even with the promise of city money, some Franklin Township officials oppose paying ODOT.

The township’s fiscal officer, Lisa Morris, said it would be a hardship because most of the township’s $834,000 annual budget is earmarked for police, fire and roads. And cuts from the state already are being felt.

“That would have a major impact on general-funds money,” Morris said.

“I don’t think we should be paying for it.”Trustee Don Cook voted against paying ODOT.

“How do you justify spending ... for flowers and trees when you won’t give your residents lights in their neighborhood and police protection?” Cook asked.

Trustees Paul Johnson and Guyton approved the streetscaping at a meeting last week. Cooperation is the right thing to do, said Columbus’ Williamson.

“I think there’s benefit to being a good neighbor,” he said. “It’s good policy. If we had gone about this in a bullying way, the casino might not be there today.”

By  Dean Narciso

The Columbus Dispatch Monday October 15, 2012