Finkbeiner: There’s more to budget story


Your Oct. 11 story on Toledo’s budget problems from 2008 through 2010 left out pertinent facts and did not make an apples-to-apples comparison of important budget issues (“Records support mayor on city’s $48M deficit; Critics said Bell exaggerated debt he contended he had to fix in 2010”).

Between 2008 and the end of 2009, the nation went through a recession that dramatically affected Toledo. To offset a major reduction in tax revenue, my administration was forced to cut $53 million from the city budget. This was not mentioned in your article.

Mayor Mike Bell inherited an $8 million deficit when he took office, largely because I refused to use city capital improvement funds intended for street and park repairs and improvements to balance the budget.

Some members of City Council had pushed this approach and even placed this option on the September, 2009, ballot. I strongly opposed this as not in the long-term best interest of the city.

Voters agreed with me and defeated this issue. I never used money intended for street repairs and park improvements to balance the city budget.

Upon taking office in January, 2010, Mayor Bell had a balanced budget, prepared by the Finkbeiner administration, on his desk. He chose not to use our recommendations, but to devise his own plan.

Once he made that decision, he increased the city’s budget deficit from $8 million to $48 million by rejecting the plan he had been given. That was his right, but he should not blame others for a decision he made.

After initially rejecting my budget recommendations, Mr. Bell implemented many of the same ideas. He also included some of his own, such as using $9 million of capital improvement money to attempt to balance the budget.

Despite all of this, he had a deficit in the city budget of $8.5 million after one year in office — a greater deficit figure than I ever experienced in my 12 years as mayor.

Despite a significant increase in tax revenue over the past four years, Mayor Bell has not been able to wean himself off using money intended for street repairs and park improvements to balance the city’s general fund budget. This has resulted in about $50 million being diverted from the original intention of capital improvement plan money: continually repaving our streets and improving our parks.

When I left office, the city debt was $668 million, accumulated over decades. Mayor Bell has increased this debt by $36 million, to $704 million. This point was also missing from your article.

Now your readers know the rest of the story about Toledo’s budget from 2008 to the present.


Townley Road

Editor's note: The writer is a former mayor of Toledo.