At least one of the controversial options for alternative revenue to be considered by Bexley City Council has been taken off the table.
The possibility of charging fees ranging between $5 and $20 to out-of-town students who attend Capital University, Columbus School for Girls or St. Charles Preparatory School as a means of boosting the city budget has been creating tension since it was first announced in January by the Alternative Revenue Task Force.
Other options being researched include the addition of parking meters on Main Street and speed cameras, proposals that also received backlash from residents and city leaders alike.
The proposals are part of an effort to fill the gap in Bexley's budget that was left following the loss of the estate taxes and a decrease in local government funds that made up about 20 percent of annual revenue.
Council members agreed at their latest meeting Tuesday, Feb. 26, that while the cash may be necessary, putting strains on community partnerships isn't the way to get it.
Instead of asking the schools to take part in the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program that would place fees on students, council instead will look to continue sharing resources and growing existing partnerships.
"If we had no one to plow snow or pump water -- if we had an urgent request from our partners -- they would step up for the city the same way that we would for them," Councilman Steve Keyes said.
Councilman Tim Madison, who proposed creation of the task force, said it wasn't until earlier that day, after talking with Adam Langley, the author of the Lincoln Institute Report, that he made up his mind completely to announce to his fellow council members that they should not pursue the out-of-town student fees.
"(Langley) said he was not aware of any other cities that in fact had a local income tax that still sought a PILOT," Madison said. "We could be the first, and I'm certainly not opposed to Bexley being the first at anything, but I have a difficult time urging council that we should go forward. We should and we must explore other alternatives."
Madison said he felt he was letting the task force down by advocating taking the option off the table, but others on council assured him that his change in thinking wasn't careless.
"A fair investigation of all the options is all that was promised to them," Councilman Richard Sharp said.
Councilman Mark Masser said that while the fee issue is being dropped, he is interested in creating policy that would require nonprofit organizations that take up much of Bexley's square footage but are exempt from taxes to be good neighbors.
"We represent the residents of Bexley and since I've been here for the last umpteen years, we keep losing property tax to institutions," he said. "Let's have some kind of written policy that if you build a new building, you pay the property taxes on that new building."
Proposals for Capital University's off-campus residences and rental apartments have all included an agreement to pay real estate taxes, although they are not required. According to Capital, it paid $165,570 in real estate taxes on those properties last year. About $17,000 of that goes to the city, while the rest is allocated to the school district.
Council said it will continue for the first half of March to investigate other possible revenue-building options during committee meetings.
In other council news:
* In honor of the Jewish Community Center celebrating its 100th year in 2013, Mayor Ben Kessler presented JCC President Joe Sniderman and Director Carol Folkerth with a proclamation that March will be known as JCC Month in Bexley.
* Council members listened to a presentation given by Columbus Gas representative Shanelle Hinkle-Moore. She explained that over the next two years, Bexley will be the site of $1.5 million in gas main line and customer meter replacements south of Broad Street, north of Dale Avenue, east of Dawson Avenue and west of Remington Road.
* For the first time, council members voted on a consent agenda, which is a list of previously discussed ordinances that council has agreed on approving. The consent agenda was enacted after council's annual retreat in January, where members discussed ways to work more efficiently and decrease the length of four-hour or longer meetings.