Franklin County ‘Discretionary’ Funds Go To Columbus

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UPDATED: Tuesday May 14, 2013 6:43 PM

In Franklin County's tiny village of Brice, residents have a big need for financial help.

So some there are wondering why Franklin County's Board of Commissioners is spending “discretionary” funds on Columbus centered projects.

“I would like to see some more of the burgs get funding," said Janice Bowles, owner of Brice's Little Sicily's Pizza.

The village is facing hard times because a recent Franklin County court ruling is forcing small villages, such as Brice, to close their mayors' courts.

In Brice, the mayor's court generates a significant amount of money for the community.

"I think there should be some research done to make sure the little communities aren't getting overlooked (for funding)," said Bowles.

Watchdog 10 researched Franklin County spending. A county document showed that from 2008 to 2010, Franklin County spent about $41 million on "discretionary" expenses.  One Gahanna based organization received more than $3 million in funding.

All of the other money went to Columbus based organizations.

Columbus Sister Cities International - located in the same office space as the City of Columbus' Department of Development - received $150,000 from Franklin County. That is roughly what the city of Columbus gave to the non-profit.  Tax records showed that Sister Cities had a budget of about $120,000 in 2011; $89,000 went to pay a sole employee.

Sister Cities unpaid board chairman, David Whitaker, said the organization uses its money to improve cultural ties with several cities throughout the world. Whitaker said Sister Cities has "deeply enriched cultural ties."

Whitaker said Sister Cities helps the region, not just Columbus. However, Whitaker was unable to point to concrete examples of job creation in the county.

“We plant seeds. We open doors. We cultivate relationships," said Whitaker.

Watchdog 10 contacted Cincinnati's Hamilton County and Cleveland's Cuyahoga County; neither county contributes to Sister Cities programs.
Still, Franklin County Board of Commissioners President John O'Grady said all of the ‘discretionary’ funds spent are a good investment.

“If we don't make these investments into the local economy, the local projects that are going on, then we're not helping to spur and activate and drive the economy,"  O'Grady said.

O'Grady also said Franklin County has spent much less on discretionary spending since he was first elected to the board. He said if people in Brice want county money, they should go before the Board of Commissioners and ask for it.   

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