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Ironton would lose tax revenue

Published 9:58am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The county needs a new jail. Few, if any, public officials disagree. Whether the county builds one or takes the state up on an offer to get one for free, operating it is going to take more money than the county is now spending.

That’s the challenge the county faces. On Thursday the county must tell the state if it will move the jail into the now defunct Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace. If the county says yes, what’s the fallout for the City of Ironton and villages that would be putting inmates there?

For the villages, apparently not much.

Right now if an individual is charged under a city or village ordinance, the sheriff’s office can charge that governmental entity $40 a day for housing that prisoner, according to Sheriff Jeff Lawless.

If the charges are violations of the Ohio Revised Code, however, the cost for housing that prisoner remains with the county.

Typically, a village will charge for a DUI under its village code but can recoup the housing cost when the person pays his or her fine, Lawless says.

If the jail is moved to Franklin Furnace, Lawless says he doesn’t anticipate any increase in that housing charge, even though travel time will be more.

For the City of Ironton, moving the jail out of the county could hit its coffers adversely.

According to the county auditor’s office, the move would cost the city $11,000 in income tax revenue. But when taxes bring in $2.5 million to the city, how great is the loss of a few thousands?

A number of city officials say that’s a loss they don’t want to take.

“I know we need a new facility,” councilman Bob Cleary said. “I hate to see it move out of the city. We are seeing jobs leaving the city. We survive in Ironton on the income tax.”

Cleary is also concerned about the amount of time city police officers would have to be away from Ironton transporting prisoners to Franklin Furnace.

“That will be a tie-up time to be out of the city,” he said. “We do need a facility to handle more prisoners but I don’t agree moving to Franklin Furnace is the right move. We have a lot of property. The port authority has a lot of property that would make a good building site.”

Councilman Craig Harvey also opposes the move.

“I think that is a huge loss for the City of Ironton,” he said. “Needless to say I would want them to stay here. But I am not 100 percent sure the city has the influence (to get them) to stay. I am not ever in favor of the city losing income tax revenue from the loss of jobs.”

However, sheriff’s detective and councilman Aaron Bollinger said the move’s advantages outweigh the downside.

“I would certainly hate to lose any amount of money because all income tax is important to getting things done in the city,” Bollinger said. “However, I have to look at what the greater good is, whether there are greater benefits to the move. Whatever is for the greater good for the county, that is what they have to do.”

While $5 million sounds like a lot, when it comes to running a city the size of Ironton, every cent counts, Mayor Rich Blankenship said.

“Five million doesn’t go very far when you have to spread that out in the entire city,” he said. “Any income tax we lose, any job we lose hurts.”

Blankenship asked for an opinion from the city solicitor that if the sheriff keeps his main office in the county, would employees who work for him, but out-of-county, still have to pay the income tax? They would not.

“The work has to be performed in the City of Ironton, unless they are residents of the city,” he said, (to get the income tax).

Blankenship says it is possible the move could help, not hurt, Ironton. That is if the additional personnel who will be needed to run the Franklin Furnace operation are also city residents. Then they will still have to pay the income tax and that could actually boost revenue for the city.

“If they move down there and hire additional employees who live in the city, it is not all negative,” he said. “If they hire additional corrections officers that helps out the community as well.”

 

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