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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2010

McNamara urges passage of operating expenses issue


City Councilman Joe McNamara Tuesday urged city voters to support Issue 5, the measure that would allow the city to use the 0.75 percent temporary income tax entirely for operating expenditures rather than capital improvements.

City Council last month supported Mayor Mike Bell's request to put the issue on the May 4 ballot.

Mr. McNamara said that passage of the reallocation would provide flexibility to the administration to keep safety forces on the job, and would not harm Mayor Bell's goal of paving 40 miles of city streets this year.

Under current law, one-third of the tax goes to capital improvements and the rest goes into the city's general fund.

If voters agree, all revenues from the 0.75 percent income tax, estimated at about $45 million this year, could be spent on general fund operations.

Mr. McNamara proposed and fought for a similar plan last year, but it was rejected by voters after then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner campaigned against it.

"If there are layoffs, the flexibility of Issue 5 can help bring people back to work. If there are unpopular revenue enhancements, the flexibility of Issue 5 funds can be used to lower the revenue enhancements," Mr. McNamara said.

The Bell administration has sought concessions from city unions but only struck a deal with the firefighters union.

On March 25, the Toledo Firefighters Local 92 membership approved a memorandum of understanding to their current contract to give the city concessions totaling $3.08 million. The givebacks are similar to those rejected in a vote the same day by the police patrolmen's union membership.

Wayne Hartford, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said firefighters agreed to pay 3 percent of their pension pickup until Jan. 1, 2011, and agreed to defer overtime payments and $340,000 in grievance payments owed by the city until March, 2011.

But if Issue 5 is approved, the concessions will roll back and firefighters will actually get a refund on the money they paid for on pensions.

Mr. McNamara said passing Issue 5 is still in the best interest of the city.

"If all the bargaining units had done that, there would still be $4 million of the $7 million in CIP money to be able to use for balancing general operations," he said. "More importantly than that $7 million is the sale of assets built [or purchased] with capital improvement dollars could be sold and the money would go the general fund."

Mr. McNamara said he would not vote against the issue because of the deal with Local 92.

"What voters need to understand [is that] it helps roll back revenue enhancements or layoffs that will happen [Tuesday night]," he said. "People will understand the larger impact of Issue 5 on the budget - that it is better for public safety and the operation of the city."

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