ANDY MORRISON Enlarge
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins is pledging to cut by 40 percent the number of municipal employees — now about 90 — who are allowed to take city cars home. That move is commendable in tough economic times.
Mr. Collins’ decree might seem obvious: Since 2008, an online magazine, GreenFleetMagazine.com, has tracked communities that restricted workers from taking vehicles home, and noted the savings that occurred. Still, it is laudable for Toledo officials to join this movement of accountability.
Reducing the number of employees who drive city cars is a chance to save money. These savings certainly won’t erase any great budget deficits, but they will help. And symbolically, Mayor Collins is sending the message that even small savings are important.
Some city workers and officials respond to emergency situations in a way that requires the use of take-home vehicles. City taxpayers pick up the fuel and maintenance tabs for these cars. But for most employees, it would seem more cost-effective for the city to pay them mileage reimbursement for using their own vehicles, based on the standard business rate of 56 cents a mile.
It can be hard to place a dollar amount on how much take-home cars cost, because factors such as maintenance costs and miles driven vary from one vehicle to another. The general-fund budget proposed by former mayor Mike Bell before he left office, which City Council must approve by March 31, includes more than $3.9 million for such maintenance and $3.7 million for fuel. City spokesman Lisa Ward says Mayor Collins wants to trim these expenses as part of the adjustments he will make to the budget.
Mr. Collins said some agencies, such as Toledo Municipal Court and the city youth commission, are underfunded in Mr. Bell’s budget plan. The mayor could apply some of the excess in the take-home vehicle budget to those shortfalls.
It will be enlightening to see how Mayor Collins amends the overall spending plan. Although he deserves applause for this latest cost-cutting effort, it is also imperative that he give Toledoans a big picture of financial stability.