The introduction of state legislation to abolish the estate tax could affect the city of Bexley in more ways than one.

The introduction of state legislation to abolish the estate tax could affect the city of Bexley in more ways than one.

Bexley City Councilman Ben Kessler told members of the Land Use Strategy Commission on Jan. 17 he had intended to introduce an ordinance that would use a portion of the estate tax revenue to help finance the commission's recommendations. But he decided not to do so after state leaders announced a plan to abolish the estate tax.

Assistant House majority whip Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and state Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) jointly introduced legislation Jan. 12 to eliminate the Ohio estate tax, also known as the death tax. Over the past 10 years, estate tax revenues have accounted for approximately 17 percent of Bexley's annual operating revenues.

The land-use group was expected to present its final recommendation to Bexley City Council on Jan. 25. The commission began meeting in 2009 to develop long-term strategies for Bexley and recommendations for the next 10 years.

"I had put together an ordinance that specified 15 percent of excess estate taxes, in excess of what was budgeted or anticipated, would be set aside for a redevelopment fund, to go toward redevelopment priorities as outlined in the plan," Kessler said.

Kessler said he met with other central Ohio communities in Upper Arlington to come up with ways to engage the state legislature about the estate tax bill.

Funding for the recommendations is up in the air, he said, adding he will have to go back to the drawing board and think of alternate funding, a daunting task given the city's current economic conditions and a likely reduction or elimination of local government funds.

Combining the loss of estate tax funds and the decrease in local government funds Bexley is looking at a revenue drop of $1.8-million per year, Kessler said. He was hoping the legislation he was set to sponsor would result in about $100,000 to $200,000 a year.

"I have no clue where we will get the funding," Kessler said.

Many of the plans initiatives will require some funding. The commission has recommended that the city rewrite and modernize the city zoning code. That would cost roughly $40,000 in legal fees.

"There are some improvements that have suggested greater opportunities for pedestrian access," Kessler said. "That has a dollar figure attached to it."

But those improvements could be funded through tax increment financing in place for Main Street, he added.

Another recommendation would put a TIF district in place on North Cassady or Livingston Avenue and would also require funding for legal fees to establish a mechanism for encouraging redevelopment.

"Livingston Avenue and the Ferndale/Mayfield area has a lot of recommendations that require funding," Kessler said. "Extending Charles Street to connect to the rest of the city has an infrastructure cost that could be funded with a TIF."

Development of an Alum Creek Park would require some funding, but commission members are hoping to apply for grant money. The good news is Bexley owns most of the land along the creek so there would be no acquisition costs just infrastructure costs, Kessler said.

There are plenty of recommendations that don't require funding, including developing a plan to attract users to the city for development along Main Street.

"The strategy works in a lot of different ways," he said. "A majority of the recommendations are structural recommendations that the city can do on day one."

One of those recommendations is restructuring city council committees to create a committee whose goal would be to focus on implementing land-use recommendations.

Some modernizing of the city's zoning code would be done with basic rewriting, by creating a mixed-use zoning district for North Cassady, Kessler said.

"We could put that in place and that would be a tremendous benefit right off the bat," he said. "Environmental protection for Alum Creek could be put in place inexpensively."