August 29, 2014

Elyria
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Cities consider pooling taxes

INDEPENDENCE — The Northeast Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association is moving ahead with a study to explore how regional tax revenue sharing could work.

The group, which has already completed a study that members say shows that the concept is a good idea, voted Thursday to figure out how to implement it.

“We’ve got to move forward,” said Pepper Pike Mayor Bruce Akers. “We can’t afford to compete with each other.”

But critics aren’t convinced that the idea is even feasible in a 16-county region that is splintered by the competing interests of individual communities, most of which are trying to lure business into their city limits.

Avon Mayor Jim Smith — whose community had to cut a revenue-sharing deal last year with surrounding communities, including Cleveland, to win approval for a new interchange off Interstate 90 — doesn’t think revenue sharing is fair.

“If it’s not a level playing field, it’s not going to work,” he said.

Bay Village, for instance, has little interest in developing business because its residents don’t want to deal with the traffic and other issues that industry and retail stores bring, Smith said. Smith asked why Avon residents, who put up with those hassles, should pay for Bay Village, which doesn’t.

“We have traffic — we should get paid,” he said.

While North Ridgeville, like Avon, will likely end up paying out more than it receives, North Ridgeville Mayor Dave Gillock said he still believes it’s the best way to improve the region’s economic fortunes.

“Not everything in life’s fair, and not everything in life’s equal, but if you’re going to have regionalism, everybody’s got to contribute,” he said.

Although exactly how a revenue-sharing plan would work is still being examined, Hudson Mayor Bill Currin said the working theory is that 40 percent of property taxes and 20 percent of income taxes from new commercial and industrial business would go into the revenue-sharing pool.

The rest would remain with the city the business moved into, he said.

Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, who feared the new Avon interchange would cripple Midway Mall and other Elyria businesses, said he supports revenue sharing because new development anywhere in the region means new money for everyone in the region. The revenue sharing wouldn’t affect existing business in communities, he said.

“It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “The pie will get bigger if we are able to generate more revenue.”

The study also will examine having cities work more closely on regional planning to determine how land is used. Smith also doesn’t want someone else telling Avon what it should be building and where to put it.

“We are a charter city, and we should be able to zone how we want,” he said.

The study comes at a time when the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a transportation planning organization that covers five counties including Lorain County, is considering getting into the economic development business.

Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair said she’s skeptical of whether either effort is a good idea after the way Avon — and Lorain County — were treated during the debate over the new I-90 interchange.

“I don’t have a problem with the concept of revenue sharing,” she said. “I have a problem with how it was implemented at NOACA by a certain group of people over the Avon interchange. I don’t like other people telling people how to do things.”

Medina County Commissioner Steve Hambley, who has joined in Blair’s efforts to reform NOACA, said he’s not in favor of anyone outside a city or village saying how land should be zoned. He also believes actually getting a revenue-sharing plan approved by dozens of communities spread over 16 counties will be next to impossible.

“It’s going to be difficult to convince communities to sign up for this,” he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.