Bexley's service committee will meet next week to discuss changing the way the city pays for sidewalks.

Bexley's service committee will meet next week to discuss changing the way the city pays for sidewalks.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at the Bexley High School community room, 326 S. Cassingham Road.

In 2004, by resolution, city council decided to pay for replacing sidewalks out of the street, alley and sidewalk levy fund, without assessing residents for the cost.

The continuing levy, passed in 2002, annually raises $850,742 in revenue for the city. It costs residential property owners $56.47 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Three weeks ago -- when the service committee met and all of council was present -- member Rick Weber said he believed the city should return to its pre-2004 policy of assessing residents for replacing sidewalks. Bexley would still pay for some sidewalks, such as those damaged by city trees.

Weber said the expense of paying all the costs associated with sidewalks was preventing the city from making street repairs as quickly as it would like.

In 2004, resident Nancy Duffy convinced council that it should pay for all sidewalk-related costs because that use was listed in the levy ballot language. She said to continue to assess residents would be double taxation.

Legally speaking, a special assessment is not a tax, John Kohlstrand, Ohio Department of Taxation communications director, told ThisWeek in an e-mail. He explained in detail:

In State v. Carney (1956), the Ohio Supreme Court described it this way: "A special assessment is not a tax as such. It is an assessment against real property based on the proposition that, due to a public improvement of some nature, such real property has received a benefit. Such an assessment is levied only against property benefited by the improvement.

"Real property taxes on the other hand have no relation to benefit but are levied at a uniform rate on all the real property in a tax district for the purpose of raising revenue for governmental operation."

"This distinction can be important," Kohlstrand said. "For instance, while churches are frequently exempt from real property taxes, they are not exempt from special assessments."

"In our experience, it is very common for people to perceive special assessments as a tax," he said, "because they are collected through the property tax billing process and they do cost property owners money."

Duffy said a continuing levy, which lasts forever, should be all that taxpayers need to spend for sidewalks.