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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: April 18

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Tying EDP funding to payroll tax growth

During a discussion last week about the Economic Development Partnership’s proposed expanded budget, an intriguing idea surfaced: determining the amount of funding for the EDP based on how much revenue there is from payroll taxes.

It’s an interesting idea: If the EDP is successful in what it’s supposed to accomplish — bringing in more and better jobs — then the local population will be earning more money and therefore paying more payroll taxes. Setting the EDP’s funding level at a percentage of those taxes would incentivize the EDP to accomplish its stated goal, because more taxes would mean its funding would increase.

This would setup a situation where the EDP is directly earning its keep. And it would add a layer of accountability to the process. Right now, the EDP asks its government partners for however much it thinks it could use and the governments allot whatever they think is appropriate. There’s a lot of guessing involved on both sides.

As officials have pointed out, this wouldn’t mean guaranteed funding for the EDP — it couldn’t, because that would literally be illegal. Instead, officials could determine a percentage that makes sense and use that as a guide for recommending a level of funding. It would create a starting point for each year’s budget talks, rather than the current method that often looks like a half-blind guessing game.

There could be many problems with such a setup, some of which may make it infeasible for Danville and Boyle County. For one thing, it would put the EDP on relatively different footing with local government than the other jointly funded agencies, such as Parks & Recreation or Planning & Zoning.

But it apparently does work in other communities. We think it would be worth researching further, on the chance we can eliminate some of the current guesswork.

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Planning and Zoning drama

Danville City Commission agreed last week that it wanted to meet with Planning and Zoning leaders to work out issues that city leaders have concerning the agency’s four-day work week and the hiring process for a new director.

We think that meeting should happen sooner rather than later and should include, as suggested, members of the Boyle County Fiscal Court.

Drama has been swirling around Planning and Zoning for weeks now, as city and county officials have questioned why they aren’t more involved in the selection of the next Planning and Zoning director. Boyle County has gone so far as to “appoint” Magistrate Jack Hendricks to attend meetings of the P&Z Personnel Committee that’s choosing the next director. Danville Mayor Mike Perros and Commissioner Denise Terry have slammed the agency for closing on Fridays, saying it sends the wrong message.

Planning and Zoning is funded by the city and county, but it is still a separate entity that abides by the ordinances that created it. This gives P&Z a level of autonomy that clearly makes some city and county officials uneasy, though it’s not immediately apparent why they are uneasy. The P&Z board is appointed by the city and county, so while Danville and Boyle County aren’t supposed to micromanage P&Z, they obviously have enormous influence over who runs the show.

It’s not good to have this level of distrust between partners. Whatever the reasons for it are should be addressed in a joint public meeting of all three groups. All involved can air their grievances, listen to where others are coming from and hopefully come to some sort of understanding, so that the next P&Z director doesn’t have to start his or her job mired in controversy.