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Companies’ tax savings brought back into community

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Fees voluntarily paid by Franklin businesses help pay for homework mentors for local students, downtown festivals and to replace the leaking roof at a historic theater.

The fees are paid by nine Franklin companies, which agreed to them after receiving tax incentives from the city. Each year, the city economic development commission decides who should get the money, which is intended for nonprofits that assist with the city’s economic growth.

The grants recently awarded total $33,000, which is larger than usual because they included money that was delayed when being transferred from the county to the city. Grants normally are given out every six months, and another smaller payout will be made later to cover the final six months of this year. In the years since the grants were started, $51,885 has been awarded.

Discover Downtown Franklin, Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Franklin Heritage and Franklin Development Corp. each will get $7,681, and $3,000 is being given to the Franklin Education Connection to help fund the homework mentor program and another program that provides educational grants for teachers.

The voluntary fee has been in place since 2008. The fee is a percentage of what the company receiving the abatement saved — 2 percent for property and 5 percent for equipment.

This year, Edinburgh has started a similar program, in which businesses can pay a fee if they wish, town building commissioner Wade Watson said.

Sacoma International and CL Tech have agreed to pay the voluntary fee under their recently agreed upon incentive packages. Watson expects the first payments from those agreements will be collected next year. The Edinburgh Town Council will discuss how the money could be spent, he said.

In Franklin, companies agree to pay the fee when they receive a tax abatement, and the money is awarded to local nonprofits for equipment, programs and services. This year, that money will go toward educational, operating costs and possibly a new program.

Discover Downtown Franklin, a nonprofit that is focused on revitalizing the downtown area, has not yet decided how to spend its grant. But one idea is for the organization to host a community exchange in Franklin, where downtown groups from around the state would visit the city, see what’s happening and share ideas for downtown renewal that have worked in other places, executive director Tara Payne said.

“For us as a nonprofit focused on revitalizing downtown Franklin, I think sharing and learning about ideas that have been effective can only help catapult us into even more success,” Payne said.

The grant given to Franklin Heritage, a local organization that promotes reinvestment in historic properties, will go toward replacing a leaking roof above the fly loft at the Historic Artcraft Theatre. The fly loft is the high area above the stage. The total cost of the project is $23,732.

Franklin Development Corp. will use its $7,500 toward operating expenses, including administrative costs and the organization’s programs, such as revolving loan funds for residents or businesses wishing to improve property, a matching grant to assist downtown businesses with façade improvements and restoring rundown houses. The Franklin Chamber of Commerce is using its portion of the fee for an interactive whiteboard used in training programs.

The grants are meant to recognize and spur projects that make a difference and promote economic development, said Franklin City Council member Ken Austin, who also serves as president of the Franklin Economic Development Commission.

“An organization like Discover Downtown Franklin is really making a difference,” Austin said. “So this is money from the companies who are willing to give something back and to the nonprofits who are helping this community so well.”

The idea is to provide additional funding for economic development projects that otherwise is not available, Franklin Director of Community Development Krista Linke said.

“In Johnson County, we don’t have a county economic development income tax or other local taxes that are available,” Linke said. “This fee is a way to try and help the cause of economic development in our community.”

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