Sunday, October 26, 2014

County mulls new process for distributing funds

By The Herald Staff | 2/17/2014

County commissioners are in an unusual position. They have money to give away.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners needs to distribute some of the money — about $2,000 — the county receives from a liquor tax. By statute, the funds go to three areas, including a special parks and recreation fund, according to county documents. But the county currently has no process in place to distribute the parks and recreation portion of the tax money.

County commissioners are in an unusual position. They have money to give away.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners needs to distribute some of the money — about $2,000 — the county receives from a liquor tax. By statute, the funds go to three areas, including a special parks and recreation fund, according to county documents. But the county currently has no process in place to distribute the parks and recreation portion of the tax money.

“We discussed in the future — in the later part of the year in November — sending out a notification for a request to cities and recreation committees,” Steve Harris, commission chair, said recently. “This money is not for something new. When [cities or recreation committees] would make a request, whether it’s a recreation committee or city, they’d be submitting receipts for things they have already spent money on to get reimbursement.”

Since the money to be distributed typically is less than $2,000, Harris said, it made sense to look at reimbursement requests based on populations of cities.

“If a rec commission redid the ball field, you don’t want all of [the money] to go to that one entity,” he said. “We want to put a policy in place of how we’d notify entities and who would be notified and then establish a deadline of getting requests back and distributions made by around Dec. 15.”

Cities with populations of 6,000 or more, like Ottawa, already receive 70 percent of the funds collected by the state from clubs, drinking establishments and from caterers whose place of business is in the city. Cities with populations less than 6,000 also already receive 46 2/3 percent of the collected funds from such businesses in those cities, according to county documents.

The board of commissioners is considering focusing its policy for distributing funds from the special park and recreation fund on recreation committees in unincorporated areas and cities that have a population of 6,000 or less since those cities don’t receive as much funding from the taxes that come from drinking establishments, Harris said, which would make the process as fair and equitable as possible.

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