Approval of Toledo's 2014 budget derailed today when what was expected to be a smooth vote was delayed to the end of the month after Toledo City Council and Mayor D. Michael Collins seemingly ended their honeymoon period with a skirmish over the mayor's proposed spending plan.
Although his proposed 2014 general-fund budget released on Feb. 14 showed a $418,000 surplus, Mayor Collins told council today there was no money for an amendment offered by Councilman Jack Ford to dedicate $140,000 of general fund money for homeless shelters or a plan by Councilmen Steven Steel and Lindsay Webb to spend $20,000 on art murals.
The mayor said the surplus has been eroded by unexpected expenses – such as unpaid rent bills in One Government Center for the second half of 2013 and unpaid Lucas County Canine Care and Control 2013 overtime bills.
“The previous administration did not pay the dog warden for overtime,” Mayor Collins said. “The raise in rent is not in the budget.”
The mayor also said the general-fund surplus did not exist because the city has a “structural deficit.” For several years, the city has taken millions each year out of the capital-improvements budget to keep the general fund in the black. This year, the Collins administration proposed using $14.1 million from that fund – which pays for street repairs and other capital improvements. Mayor Collins said that essentially leaves a $13.6 million deficit.
The mayor's claim puzzled councilmen like Mr. Steel, who pointed out correctly that his budget released Feb. 14 and an amended budget document dated today showed the same amount designated for general fund expenses: $244,865,467.
“Yes, I read in the paper of record about the additional expenditures, but the budget handed to us did not change,” Mr. Steel said after the meeting.
Complicating the budget vote today was an email sent the previous night by Joel Mazur, the mayor's assistant chief of staff, to councilmen promising the city will open four city pools this summer, but neither the letter nor the latest budget document indicated the source of funding.