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Published: Wednesday, 3/12/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Toledo council blasts state’s rent proposal

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo councilmen Tuesday criticized a state proposal to raise rents for city and Lucas County office space at One Government Center — especially after years of cuts in state funding for communities and the governor’s recent push to lower Ohio's top income-tax rate.

“This is insult after injury from the Kasich administration,” Councilman Lindsay Webb said during a council meeting Tuesday when the rent issue was raised.

“They took $14 million from us, and now they are going to raise the rent,” Ms. Webb said referring to the state’s cutback of the local-government fund to Toledo.

Collins administration officials revealed this week that the Ohio Department of Administrative Services is pressuring Toledo and Lucas County for more rent money.

Toledo Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt said the state agency wants to more than double, retroactive to July 1, One Government Center rent from $6 per square foot to $13.01, which for the city’s 172,000 square-feet would raise the annual expense to more than $2.2 million.

Such an increase would mean cuts to other city services planned in 2014 budgets that council must approve before April 1.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols did not respond to requests for comment.

City Finance Director George Sarantou said the city has lost $17.2 million since 2011 from the reduction in the local-government fund and Ohio’s estate tax.

“How much are they going to bleed us?” Mr. Sarantou said. “From a financial point of view, we are going to get bled to death.”

Peter Ujvagi, chief of public policy and legislative affairs for the county, said the county lost $17.9 million from the state since 2010 from cuts to the local-government fund, personal property tax replacement, homestead rollback, and state reimbursement.

“That is a 46 percent reduction from 2010 to 2014,” Mr. Ujvagi said.

Councilman Rob Ludeman said the state agency may be looking to make up shortfalls from other revenues. “When government proposes an income tax cut, those dollars have to come from someplace else,” Mr. Ludeman said.

Other councilmen questioned why the city was on the hook for such an increase when the city and county had jointly funded, along with the state, the 22-story building’s construction.

In other business, council was evenly split, 6-6, on an annual ordinance that authorizes the administration to buy goods and services throughout the year without coming back to council for permission. Among the items on the list are 1 million gallons of gasoline; 750,000 gallons of diesel fuel; 300,000 gallons of fuel oil; an unspecified amount of helicopter fuel, and 37,300 tons of crushed stone.

Voting against were Jack Ford, Theresa Gabriel, Steven Steel, Larry Sykes, Matt Cherry, and Ms. Webb.

The tie allowed Mayor D. Michael Collins to cast the first tie-breaking vote of his administration to approve the ordinance.

Mr. Steel and others said the ordinance did not give specifics on the items or estimated prices. “It sort of comes through as a rubber stamp,” Mr. Steel said.

Ms. Webb said many of the expenditures should be requested individually so council can scrutinize the purchases.

The mayor said he would draft a new policy by April.

“It would be too cumbersome to bring every contract to council,” Mr. Collins said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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