Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins successfully checked off one campaign promise when he handed over a revised budget – to slash the mayor's office staff.
Mayor Collins' staff costs taxpayers 31 percent less than that of former Mayor Mike Bell at the end of 2013. But while he's ordered all departments to cut 2 percent, the cost for fire operations jumped slightly over last year and the budget for Toledo's economic development is also up.
“I looked at human capital costs and I looked at capital costs,” Mr. Collins said, referring to how he reviewed the proposed 2014 budget that former Mayor Bell submitted.
“I reduced capital costs across the board,” Mayor Collins said. “For example, we have required 40 percent reduction in home garaging of city vehicles, which cuts back on gasoline money. So I looked at a variety of smaller things.”
The line between mayor's office staff and economic development staffers is often blurred because the two departments operate side-by-side on the mayor's 22nd floor suite downtown. Mayor Collins did slash his office by 30 percent, as he promised, but the cost for economic development is up by 17 percent – chiefly because of a sizable increase in the salary of the city's business development director.
The Bell administration spent $760,939 on 11 staffers, including the mayor's $122,400 salary, at the end of last year. That does not include cost of four interns, which would bump the figure up to $793,695. The Collins administration this year will spend $510,694 for eight people and no interns.
This year's mayoral staff includes Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt, who is paid $92,487; Assistant Chief of Staff Joel Mazur, who is paid $74,006, and Public Information Officer Lisa Ward, who is paid $65,000.
Mayor Collins said he eliminated several positions. Mayor Bell had three deputy mayors – one of whom was also safety director – and now the city has a chief of staff and an assistant chief of staff.
“I know we are up in economic development,” Mayor Collins said.
Director Matt Sapara, who handles economic development, is paid $127,504 – more than the mayor or the base salary of any other city employee.
That department this year will cost city taxpayers $403,353 with six people compared to $334,214 for six employees in 2013.
Toledo City Council approved changing the city code to allow Mr. Sapara's salary to be raised.
Council last week held budget hearing on economic development, police, and fire. It's expected to conduct hearings on each department before ultimately approving the 2013 spending plan.
Councilman Rob Ludeman, chairman of council's economic development committee, said he was initially skeptical of increasing the salary cap for the head of that department.
“When I was told it was Matt Sapara, I was supportive,” Mr. Ludeman said. “It's a small department. Just six people, but there are big expectations.”
Mr. Sapara, 40, was previously chief operating officer of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. He recently hired William Burkett, who was senior project manager for large brownfield redevelopment projects in northern Ohio for Hull & Associates, Inc., to be the new commissioner of economic development and is paid $76,003.
The hearing on economic development was brief but council's law and criminal justice committee held a lengthy meeting Thursday on the police and fire budgets. Those departments are the largest drains on the city's general fund.
The fire department will cost $66.1 million from the general fund this year, up from the $62 million budgeted for 2013. That however includes $4 million to pay for 71 communications operators who were included in the police budget last year.
Mayor Collins said the cost of the 911 operators would be split evenly between the two safety forces departments next year.
The police department will cost the general fund $73.3 million compared to nearly $75.3 million budgeted in 2013.
Police base wages will be up more than $1 million over last year to $45.2 million.
The budget is stressed by contractually obligated pay raises for the safety forces. Rank and file firefighters who belong to Toledo Firefighters Local 92 will get 3.5 percent raises in August; battalion chiefs get 3 percent increases in January, and police officers get 3 percent pay raises in July.
Mayor Bell’s proposal budgeted money for 30 new police officer recruits to be hired in December, 2014, which Mayor Collins has kept in his budget.
Mayor Collins said both police and fire overtime costs would be less this year compared to last year. The safety forces for years have exceeded the budgeted amounts for overtime.
The total amount collected from the city’s 2.25 percent payroll tax is one of the most crucial estimates in the city spending plan each year since it is the largest source of revenue. Mayor Collins’ proposed budget assumes the city will collect $165.24 million from the tax, which is what Mayor Bell’s administration had budgeted for in the 2014 budget. That is about 2 percent over the 2013 estimate of $163.87 million. But the city actually expects to collect about $160 million, which is almost $4 million less than it budgeted for in 2013. The city collected $158.38 million in 2012 and $153.62 million in 2011.
In November, the Bell administration recommended the city transfer $14.1 million from the capital improvements plan budget — the same amount taken out of that fund to balance the general fund in 2013. Then Mayor-elect Collins said that number should be reduced. However, he is still recommending council approve a 2014 budget that takes $14.1 million away from capital improvements and instead use it for the general fund.
The Collins proposed budget predicts a $418,000 general fund surplus since total revenues are projected to reach $245.28 million while 2014 spending is set to be $244.86 million. The proposed 2014 spending is a slight increase over 2013.
Councilman Jack Ford said he would like to see some alterations made to the budget, including earmarking money for some of the city's homeless shelters to use if they run into financial troubles.
He said part of the projected surplus could be designated for the shelters.
Council must approve the budget by March 31.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.