A majority of Toledo City Council today sided with Mayor Mike Bell in declaring that the city does in fact have a $326,000 surplus left over from 2011 that can be saved away in a rainy day fund.
After a lengthy debate that pit City Auditor Scott Wheelock against City Finance Director Patrick McLean, council voted 7-3 in favor of shifting that money into the city's "budget stabilization fund." Voting in favor were Councilmen Paula Hicks-Hudson, Rob Ludeman, Adam Martinez, Tyrone Riley, Steven Steel, Tom Waniewski, and Lindsay Webb. Against were D. Michael Collins, Joe McNamara, and George Sarantou.
Councilman Mike Craig was present but missed most of the meeting to attend a community budget meeting. Councilman Phillip Copeland, who plans to resign before the next regular council meeting on Jan. 8 to take his post as Lucas County Recorder, left the meeting shortly after being honored for his years on council.
Mr. Sarantou, with the backing of three certified public accountants and Mr. Wheelock, argued that the city was not allowed to move that money into the rainy day fund since the city actually has a $5.7 million deficit because the money in question is restricted for specific uses and cannot be used for other purposes.
Mr. Sarantou said it was misleading to say the city has a surplus - particularly to the bond rating agencies that assign ratings to the city. During the debate Mr. Wheelock advised against moving the money. He said most of that amount is the 'reserve' for the closing of the Hoffman Road landfill and cannot be used by council or the mayor to meet future expenditures of the city.
Mr. McLean said, however, that it was an appropriate policy decision to move the money.
In other business, council voted 7-3 to approve a $200,000 settlement for Gary Daugherty - a former environmental services manager hired when Mayor Carty Finkbeiner took office in 2006 - in exchange for him dropping an unlawful-termination lawsuit. Voting no were Mr. Collins, Mr. Sarantou, and Mr. Waniewski. The settlement was approved over the objection of Mr. Finkbeiner who wrote council a letter today stating Mr. Daugherty was laid off along with many other city employees because of a budget crisis, not racial discrimination as he alleged in court documents
Council today also:
Voted 10-0 to appropriate $4.5 million from the city's 2013 capital improvements budget for two city fire stations. The Bell administration has committed $1.7 million to renovate Fire Station 3, the city’s oldest fire house and another $2.7 million for a new fire station, which will become Fire Station 12 — the name of a former firehouse at Suder Avenue and Manhattan Boulevard that was closed in 1980. It is to be built in Blair Park at Adrian and Chase streets.
Split 6-6 on a whether it should make a decision on changes to the city's vacant house registry law. Mayor Mike Bell broke the tie and voted to hold the proposed legislation until council's next meeting. Ms. Hicks-Hudson, one of the legislation's sponsors, said the new proposed law would require banks that foreclose on a property to alert the city.
Voted to accept a $850,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft for improvements to the Cullen Park boat launch that include building new ramps and loading docks, and making parking lot, sign and lighting improvements.