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One bid submitted for land along Clairmont Avenue

One company has submitted a bid for 2.6 acres of property belonging to the school district along Clairmont Avenue, although a term of the sale has been removed.

In July, the Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education approved a land auction for 2.6 acres along Clairmont Avenue in hopes of continuing a trend of home construction in the area.

One bidder, Goodville Mutual Casualty Co., submitted a bid of $15,600 — the minimum — at the auction. Following an executive session for the purchase or sale of property during its board meeting Wednesday, the board approved modifying its previous resolution to remove a term placed on the sale. That term originally required the purchaser to begin residential development within three years of the purchase or will provide the district with a $10,000 annual donation until the development begins.

“Since they paid $15,600 ... they’re going to have an incentive to get going,” Treasurer Michael Bostelman said of why the term was removed.

However, Bostelman said the final details of the agreements are still being worked on with the company.

“We’re still negotiating the final purchase contract, part of it could end back in, part of it might not,” Bostelman said.

Additional terms remaining at this time include all costs associated with the sale will be at the expense of the purchaser; all residential development must follow building codes/restrictions identified in the nearby Gerken-Hoeffel Subdivision; and purchaser/developer must agree not to apply for or accept any residential tax abatement offered through other governmental agencies.

The resolution also authorizes Superintendent Erik Belcher, Bostelman and Board President Ty Otto to negotiate and execute any documents regarding the sale.

School officials previously stated the property is not needed for use by the school district. The decision to sell the land now was attributed to an increase in residential development in the area around the school’s campus.

E-mail comments to jenl@northwestsignal.net.

A divided Fed reduces rates but may not cut again this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — A sharply divided Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate Wednesday for a second time this year but declined to signal that further rate cuts are likely this year.

The Fed’s move reduced its key short-term rate — which influences many consumer and business loans — by an additional quarter-point to a range of 1.75% to 2%.

The action was approved 7-3, with two officials preferring to keep rates unchanged and one arguing for a bigger half-point cut. The divisions on the policy committee underscored the challenges for Chairman Jerome Powell in guiding the Fed at a time of high economic uncertainty.

The Fed did leave the door open to additional rate cuts — if, as Powell suggested at a news conference, the economy weakens. For now, he suggested, the economic expansion appears durable in its 11th year, with a still-solid job market and steady consumer spending.

At the same time, the Fed is trying to combat threats including uncertainties caused by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, slower global growth and a slump in American manufacturing. The Fed noted in its statement that business investment and exports have weakened.

At his news conference, Powell acknowledged that Fed officials are sharply divided about the wisest course for interest rates, especially given uncertainties, like trade conflicts, whose outcomes are out of the Fed’s control.

“This is a time of difficult judgments and disparate perspectives,” the chairman said.

Many business leaders are skeptical that the Fed’s slight rate cuts will deliver much economic benefit.

Wednesday’s rate cut “makes virtually no difference to the U.S. economy in and of itself,” said Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who suggested, as many corporate leaders have, that Trump’s trade war remains an overarching threat.

“I don’t think cutting rates will offset trade, personally,” said Dimon, head of the largest U.S. bank.

The Fed’s modest rate cut irritated Trump, who has attacked the central bank and insisted that it slash rates more aggressively. The president immediately signaled his discontent:

“Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again,” Trump tweeted. “No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!”

Asked about Trump’s latest personal taunt, Powell declined, as he has before, to respond directly, while adding that the Fed’s long-standing independence from political pressures “has served the country well.”

Updated economic and interest rate forecasts issued Wednesday by the Fed show that only seven of 17 officials foresee at least one additional rate cut this year. And at least two Fed officials expect a rate hike next year.

None of the policymakers foresee rates falling below 1.5% in 2020 — a sign that the turbulence from a global slowdown and Trump’s escalation of the trade war is viewed as manageable.

The median forecasts show the economy is expected to grow a modest 2.2% this year, 2% next year and 1.9% in 2021. Those forecasts are well below the Trump administration’s projection that the president’s policies will accelerate growth to 3% annually or better. But they also suggest that policymakers do not envision a recession.

Unemployment is projected to be 3.7% and inflation 1.5%, below the Fed’s target level of 2%

A resumption of trade talks between the Trump administration and Beijing and a less antagonistic tone between the two sides have supported the view that additional rate cuts might not be necessary. So has a belief that oil prices will remain elevated, that inflation might finally be reaching the Fed’s target level and that there are increasing signs that the U.S. economy remains sturdy.

The job market looks solid, wages are rising, consumers are still spending and even such sluggish sectors as manufacturing and construction have shown signs of rebounding.

Yet no one, perhaps not even the Fed, is sure of how interest rate policy will unfold in coming months. Too many uncertainties exist, notably the outcome of Trump’s trade war.

Trump has meantime kept up a stream of public attacks on the central bank’s policymaking, including referring to Powell as an “enemy” and the Fed’s policymakers as “boneheads.” Even though the economy looks resilient, the president has insisted that the Fed slash its benchmark rate more deeply — even to below zero, as the European Central Bank has done — part to weaken the U.S. dollar and make American exports more competitive.

Powell has said that the policymakers remain focused on sustaining the expansion and keeping prices stable without regard to any outside pressures.

The Fed is monitoring the global slowdown, especially in Europe, and Britain’s effort to leave the European Union. A disruptive Brexit could destabilize not just Europe but the U.S. economy, too

U.S. inflation, which has long been dormant, has begun to show signs that it is reaching the Fed’s 2 percent target and might remain there. If the Fed’s policymakers conclude that inflation will sustain a faster pace, it might give them pause about cutting rates much further.

The most serious threat to the expansion is widely seen as Trump’s trade war. The increased import taxes he has imposed on goods from China and Europe — and the counter-tariffs other nations have applied to U.S. exports — have hurt many American companies and paralyzed their plans for investment and expansion.

In recent days, the Trump administration and Beijing have acted to de-escalate tensions before a new round of trade talks planned for October in Washington. Yet most analysts foresee no significant agreement emerging this fall in the conflict, which is fundamentally over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant America’s technological dominance.

AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

Commissioners discuss state budget

While there’s still work to be done, area commissioners expressed appreciation about the recently approved state budget, especially in the areas of indigent defense reimbursements to counties.

Commissioners from northwest Ohio gathered Monday morning at The Emporium in Napoleon, located at the former senior center on East Clinton Street, for a County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) regional budget update.

John Leutz, legislative counsel for CCAO, spoke about the increase in the state reimbursement to counties for indigent defense, an area in which commissioners have been seeking assistance for awhile.

“Indigent defense is a continual issue, it’s a continual work in progress,” Leutz said, encouraging the commissioners to continue to speak with legislators about the need for additional reimbursement. “We got off to a good start.”

Adam Schwiebert, policy advisor for CCAO, addressed a change to sales tax regulations on internet transactions from out-of-state vendors.

Schwiebert said previously, internet vendors only had to collect Ohio sales tax if they had a physical presence — most likely a building or a salesperson — in the state. However, this change means out-of-state vendors that lack a physical presence in Ohio, but who conduct $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions per year in the state should collect the sales tax.

“We were leaving money on the table, essentially,” Schwiebert said. “A good taxpayer would pay his or her use tax that they were supposed to self-report to the department if they didn’t pay the sales tax, but, as we all know, no one really did that, it was incredibly low.”

“If nothing else, it’s more marketplace fairness,” he added. “It’s a more level playing field.”

Schwiebert said counties should experience a revenue bump from this change, but it’s difficult to estimate how much that could generate for counties. In addition, he said some may already be seeing an increase as some companies started charging the sales tax following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018, but prior to the law change.

“You might be seeing some pretty healthy growth in your sales tax right now,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s because of this, but it’s contributing.”

Schwiebert said the budget bill also closed some tax exemptions, including bullion and coins and sales of qualified property to motor racing teams.

Additional highlights included:

•Starting Oct. 1, counties may utilize unused transit tax authority up to .5%, with voter approval, for jail construction and renovations. This is for capital improvements only, not operating funds.

•Starting Oct. 1, sales tax rates can be adjusted in increments of 1/20th of 1% (.05%).

•The Local Government Fund increases from 1.66% of the general revenue fund to 1.68%. Schwiebert said that should amount to $5 million per year, $2 million of which will go to counties and then be further divided among the entities in each county.

•The H2Ohio Fund will include $172 million for agriculture and community and water projects statewide with the Lake Erie Commission coordinating with state agencies on priorities.

•Probation departments are supposed to be the responsibility of the county common pleas courts, but state staff commonly supervise these cases. However, the state will be transitioning its workers away from counties, with a two-year grant given to counties to help them hire their own staff. For counties which have probation departments fully staffed by state workers, which includes Henry County, planning will take place over the next two years for a transition to a county probation department. Henry County Commissioner Bob Hastedt said the county is not yet to the point of hiring its own staff, but discussions are underway. He noted once the grant funds are done, the county will have to pay for those salaries.

•Several questions were posed on the status of a new statewide 9-1-1 system, as well as the fees collected for the system. Leutz said they are still looking at how the system would be transitioned from telephone to internet and how much that will cost, both for the statewide main system and then how much local entities will have to fund for their portion. Leutz added they are currently only collecting fees from cell phone bills, and that will have to be applied more widely considering the number of options currently available. “It will have to be a universal access fee across the board,” he said, adding the process is moving slowly as legislators want to know how much it will cost, but they can’t get to that point because they don’t have funding to perform more research into what will be needed.

•Multiple commissioners mentioned they are still concerned with unfunded mandates handed down from the state, especially related to boards of elections.

•Concerns about broadband internet access were also addressed by several commissioners. Defiance County will be conducting an internet connectivity study in the near future.

•Christa Luttmann, Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison for the governor’s office, highlighted priorities of Gov. Mike DeWine, including road improvements, education, children and families, workforce development and jobs, mental health, water issues and gun issues.