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Committee wants $40K for Growth Council

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@chronicle-tribune.com

The Gas City Redevelopment Committee approved a request to increase appropriations to the Grant County Economic Growth Council on Wednesday, leaving it up to the Gas City Council to make the final decision.

Mayor Larry Leach came to the committee with the request, knowing that Gas City is soon to be the recipient of up to $80,000 in funds due the Grant County Council’s amendments to the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) ordinance.

Originally, the ordinance granted the Growth Council a percentage of the area’s local income tax, totalling in around $300,000 annually. Changes in the tax ordinance will cut the council’s portion by two-thirds, leaving them with around $100,000 in taxpayer funding.

Executive Director Tim Eckerle and other Growth Council members attended the meeting to plead their case and explained how the funds support widespread development. Leach said he’d like to appropriate an additional $20,000 to the group starting January 2019, which the committee approved. Gas City currently gives $19,950 to the economic development group, an “odd amount” that the mayor said he paid “because that’s what Tim invoiced to us.”

Leach said he’s “100 percent in support” of the Growth Council, and can’t understand why their budget is suffering.

“Well now that same board has opted to go another route,” he said, mentioning the County Council. “Mr. McWhirt, and I’m sorry, Jim is a good friend of mine, but in his infinite wisdom I don’t understand it.”

Leach also requested the committee pay the Growth Council out of their tax increment financing district funding, “like we’ve done for the last 15 years,” a request he said he wasn’t sure was legal.

“We’ve withstood state audits every year for that 15-year period and we’ve never been questioned on the validity of using that money for this purpose, which is economic development,” Leach said. “That’s the main discussion that (Joe Certain) and I had. If it qualified under the current state statute, I don’t know that it’s spelled out, but if it does qualify we’ve been getting away with it for 15 years. I say let’s keep getting away with it.”

Similar to Gas City, the City of Marion is expecting up to $90,000 from the EDIT fund, and the Growth Council requested some or all of the return be appropriated back to them.

Growth Council Board President Brett Carey said he was happy with the committee’s decision to support the organization’s mission. Although he said it’s too early to tell, “we hope Marion follows suit.”

The next Gas City Council will make the final decision on appropriating more than $40,000 to the Growth Council at their next meeting, which will be Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.