WILMINGTON — Topics ranged from medical marijuana growing, prison farms, predatorial black vultures that are federally protected and the local bed tax at a Clinton County Farm Bureau public policy breakfast Wednesday.
As part of an annual policy development process, county Farm Bureaus in Ohio hold public policy meetings to obtain input on societal policies that affect the organization’s members and communities. These meetings start the process of developing Farm Bureau policy from the county, to the state and potentially the national level.
On the local policy level, the breakfast participants reacted to a Farm Bureau idea-generator handout that expressed support for bed tax revenue being used for fairground maintenance and improvement projects.
Clinton County Farm Bureau President Beth Ellis noted that the local hotels’ bed tax that supports the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a current unresolved issue.
Wilmington City Council’s Judiciary Committee has been considering changing the way the hotel lodging tax is presently distributed. If the change is made, the city would have access to more “bed tax” revenue than in the past, and the CVB presumably would end up with less of the funds.
In May, the judiciary committee said there are good legislative grounds to have the CVB get half of the lodging tax revenue and for city council to allot the other half. City officials have mentioned spending bed tax dollars for the city parks system.
At Wednesday’s breakfast, Ellis said the matter “bears some reflection,” and she thinks people need to talk about it in hopes “a judicious decision” is made.
After the meeting, Ellis said she wanted to ensure she was being clear on the subject. She added that she supports having Clinton County and the City of Wilmington be equal in their contributions to the Visitors Bureau.
Ellis then said because the county is being supportive, she’d like to see the city “be supportive as well.”
At the Farm Bureau breakfast, Ellis said “in all fairness” toward city policymakers favoring the change, they have suggested the CVB could apply for money from what would get distributed to the city if the change occurs.
“The problem with that is it’s just another layer that you have to go through, when sometimes you have to make a decision quickly,” said Ellis, reiterating that “sometimes time is of the essence.”
All three Clinton County commissioners attended the Farm Bureau breakfast held at the Hampton Inn in Wilmington. Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley said the county has the financial ability to support the county fairground, “and we’ve done that. But I think the convention bureau is an easy target for taxes.”
Haley also said the amount of money the city would receive if the way the CVB is funded is changed, would not turn around the city’s financial woes.
Similarly, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said the money the city would get would not be enough to right the city’s financial ship, “but it would severely limit the ability of the [visitors] bureau to do its job.”
Previously, Steed said as owner of Generations Pizzeria in Wilmington, he can see the effects of CVB’s work.
Steed also spoke of “the sports economy” the CVB has helped bring “to a small rural county,” listing frequent horse shows, along with dog shows, auto racing, and a Jeep event held in Clinton County.
Retired ag-businessman and retired farmer Bill Settlemyre raised a separate topic — the tax increase experienced by farm owners due to the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) real estate tax assessment program. The meeting facilitator, Clinton County Farm Bureau Organization Director Steve Berk, said there is a shortage of education “especially on CAUV.”
Settlemyre had suggested the Clinton County Farm Bureau create a short newsletter that would examine and possibly substantiate information on the local impact of CAUV increases.
A field representative for U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers attended the meeting.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.