February 10, 2011
City fighting to keep death tax alive By JEFF DONAHUE ThisWeek Community Newspapers Bexley city officials aren’t giving up on a critical source of revenue without a fight. Assistant House majority whip Cheryl Grossman and state Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) jointly introduced legislation Jan. 12 to eliminate the Ohio estate tax, also known as the “death tax.” House Bill 3 would allow small business owners, farmers and homeowners to pass on their assets to their heirs without being taxed twice on their savings. Grossman and Hottinger believe the
legislation would make Ohio more competitive for entrepreneurial growth and investment. Ohio currently has the lowest estate tax exemption in the UnitBen Kessler ed States. Just $338,333 of the taxable estate is exempt from the estate tax, compared to an average exemption amount of approximately $1.7-million for other states that have one. Over the past 10 years, estate tax revenues have accounted for approximate-
ly 17 percent of the city of Bexley’s annual operating revenue. That number has varied from a high of $4.3-million (33.6 percent of operating revenues) in 2009 to a low of $482,046 (5.4 percent) in 2007. Council finance committee chairman Ben Kessler said he, Mayor John Brennan and other officials are investigating the issue, meeting with elected officials and lobbying for alternative solutions. “The mayor and I attended a meeting last week with state Sen. Kevin Bacon to discuss the impact to Bexley of the elimination of the estate tax and the local government fund,” Kessler said. “It was a good meeting; Bacon was open to dis-
cussing alternative options, and felt that the Ohio Senate could possibly take a more nuanced approach to the elimination of the tax — maybe phasing it out over several years, or stalling until the state’s economic condition improved. It was a positive meeting, and I certainly felt coming out of it that our community was going to have a voice in the process.” Kessler said H.B. 3 appears to be on the fast track in the state legislature. “My understanding is that hearings are starting on HB3 at the house, with proponent testimony currently occurring, and opponent testimony possibly being
heard in the next few weeks, with the house pushing for the passage of the bill by May,” he said. In addition to the meeting with Bacon, several members of Bexley City Council, as well as the mayor, have been in touch with State Rep. Nancy Garland, and other representatives. Bexley is also part of a coalition of communities who are concerned about potential revenue losses that would come with the passage of H.B. 3. “The communities that I’m aware of being part of the coalition off of the top
Qualmann says Bexley needs auditor
By JEFF DONAHUE ThisWeek Community Newspapers
By Paul Vernon/ThisWeek
Spectators watch two cars race during Boy Scout Troop 166’s Pinewood Derby at Bexley United Methodist Church on Feb. 5. Troop members design and build the cars they race.
Restaurants have reservations about former Bexley Monk site By TARA STUBBS-FIGURSKI ThisWeek Community Newspapers The site of the former Bexley Monk restaurant remains vacant despite efforts by the city to attract a new eatery. Potential restaurant users apparently have reservations about the space in the Bexley Square shopping center at College Avenue and East Main Street, including the economic climate and the size of the space. A fixture in Bexley for 26 years, the Monk’s last day of operation was June 26. At the time the owners of the restaurant said reports that Capital University was interested in acquiring the Bexley Square shopping center and converting it to campus uses helped them reach the decision to close. Capital announced plans in April to buy the
See TAX, page A3
shopping center across the street from its campus but withdrew its rezoning request after receiving negative feedback from Bexley City Council. The Monk’s owners said a gradual decline in business left them with no choice but to close.
Bruce Langner, Bexley’s economic development director, said a restaurant owner from Springfield was interested in the site but eventually decided to pass and concentrate on his existing business. The size of the restaurant might be intimidating to potential restaurant owners. “I think 8,000(square feet) is too large for a restaurant today,” Langner said. “They want it to be 5,000. My understanding is the property owner is willing to cut down the size to accommodate someone.” The space’s location in the Bexley Square shopping center could also be a hindrance, Langner said. The restaurant is located in the back of the strip shopping center, and visibility from Main Street is limited, he said. See MONK, page A2
Bexley Auditor Gary Qualmann says he isn’t sure why members of the city’s charter review commission want to get rid of the elected auditor position and replace it with a director of finance appointed by the mayor and confirmed by city council. “I never have received an answer as to why they want to do this,” Qualmann said. “Nobody has ever really answered that question.” During a recent public meeting at Bexley High School, charter review commission chairman John Offenberg and commission member Don Brosius both insisted the pending recommendation was not “personal.” In a Jan. 9 e-mail to commission member Stephen Keyes, Qualmann sought an explanation for the commission’s announcement that it intends to recommend the move to an appointed director of finance. “Once again, let me pose the question, which has not been answered, at least to my satisfaction — what is the problem with the current strong mayor/strong auditor form of government that we have today,” Qualmann wrote. “It is working great for the city of Bexley and has for decades — and there is a reason for that. It was and is well designed to keep potential political aspirations of an elected strong mayor from getting out of touch with the financial realities supported by a strong auditor. Checks and balances, and independence, are extremely important and what we have today in Bexley.” Qualmann said keeping the auditor position but having the finance director report to the mayor would not work because
I never have received an answer as to why they want to do this. Nobody has ever really answered that question.
GARY QUALMANN — Bexley Auditor
“no one would accept the auditor position because you cannot give the auditor all of the responsibility but not the authority to supervise the staff, which carries out the duties of the finance office.” According to the Bexley charter, (Article V), “The Auditor shall perform all the duties and exercise all powers conferred upon the Auditor by this Charter, the ordinances of the City and the general laws of the State defining the duties and powers of auditors of cities.” The Ohio Revised Code, section 733.10, 733.11, and 733.12 describe specific responsibilities of properly keeping the books and accounts that require a staff that reports to the Auditor. “ If you change the finance director to report to the mayor, you will be eliminating the auditor position,” Qualmann said. Qualmann also noted that of the nine local cities that were studied by the commission, two had elected auditors (with elected mayors – like Bexley), five had finance directors reporting to a city managers (not elected mayors) and only two had finance directors reporting to mayors. “In my view, only these last See AUDITOR, page A4
Recreation board reviews Langner hopes to attract land-use commission’s advice hardware store, bike shop By TARA STUBBS-FIGURSKI
ThisWeek Community Newspapers
Plans for Alum Creek developed by the Bexley Land Use Strategy Commission include developing a comprehensive creek side park, putting in place environmental protections for the creek and providing continuous recreational access.
Members of the commission presented the plans to the Bexley Recreation Board on Feb. 2. “When we first started looking at Alum Creek we started exploring putting in place some environmental protections for the creek,” said commission chairman Ben Kessler. “The city has no regulations on how close you can build to the creek and what sort of activity can occur right
along the creek.” A lot of communities enact protection for watershed areas, Kessler said. The city of Columbus has environmental protection in place for bodies of water in general. Bexley needs to decide what protection should be put in place to honor Bexley as an urban neighborhood,” he said. See ADVICE, page A3
By TARA STUBBS-FIGURSKI ThisWeek Community Newspapers
When working on their home improvement projects, Bexley residents have to leave the community to find their supplies. Economic development director Bruce Langner believes
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a hardware store might be a good fit for the city. He recently sent information about Bruce Langner Bexley to area hardware stores in an effort to promote
the city. “We don’t have a good hardware store close to here,” Langner said. “I’ve mapped the stores around us and the closest is Lowe’s out on East Broad Street.” Langner said a lot of people See SHOPS, page A4