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Published: Wednesday, 12/3/2008

Conveyance fee debate calls for funding housing, development

BY ALEX M. PARKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dennis Wisebaker suggests using an increased conveyance fee to fund housing and development. Dennis Wisebaker suggests using an increased conveyance fee to fund housing and development.
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With elected officials and community groups at odds over the proposed increase in Lucas County's conveyance fee, some speakers at yesterday's public hearing on the issue asked the county commissioners to consider a compromise.

The commissioners held the second public hearing yesterday - attended by more than 40 people - over a proposal to increase the county's real estate conveyance fee from $3 to $4 for every $1,000 of real estate transferred, to help pay for the Lucas County Improvement Corp., the county's economic development agency.

The proposal has provoked opposition - not only from those who oppose an increase in the fee, but also from those who advocate using it to help pay for the Toledo-Lucas County Housing Trust Fund.

Yesterday, some floated the idea of raising the fee and using the revenue for both purposes.

"We also push for splitting this in some manner," said Dennis Wisebaker, president of the Toledo Community Development Corporation Alliance. "In our minds, they're both important, we need them both, and we have two agencies that are looking at finances to move forward."

Although the issue was on the agenda for yesterday's hearing, the commissioners did not vote on it.

The proposed increase will be on the agenda for next Tuesday's meeting, although Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners, said they may wait until Dec. 16 to vote.

Raising the conveyance fee was one of the recommendations of a report from former University of Toledo President Dan Johnson regarding how to fix the LCIC, along with reforming its board and refining its mission statement.

While Commissioner Pete Gerken, a strong proponent of the LCIC, pro-posed increasing the conveyance fee, Commissioner Ben Konop, one of the LCIC's fiercest critics, has opposed the increase, claiming the LCIC needs to implement the report's other recommendations first.

Ms. Wozniak said she wanted to consider some sort of compromise, but Mr. Gerken and Mr. Konop expressed skepticism.

"If you start splitting the baby too far, you will have mutually assured destruction for all," Mr. Gerken said during the meeting.

Mr. Konop said he was opposed to any increase in the conveyance fee at this time.

"You don't raise taxes on working people in an economy which is the closest we've ever come to the Great Depression," Mr. Konop said.

"That goes against all economic logic, regardless of the use."

During yesterday's public hearing, all three commissioners heard arguments from more than 20 people on both sides, and occasionally debated in testy exchanges.

Mike Badik, Toledo's commissioner of housing, asked the commissioners to consider using the conveyance fee to help the Housing Trust Fund.

Currently, its funding comes from an allotment from revenue from one of the city's downtown parking garages - about $100,000 this year.

Mr. Konop said he thought his fellow commissioners already decided on a tax increase, while Ms. Wozniak said she has yet to make up her mind, and said she was only entertaining the possibility of splitting the revenue from the fee increase.

Contact Alex M. Parker at:

aparker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6107.



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