Toledo officials got their first look at a new way to budget Wednesday, a process the Hicks-Hudson administration believes will help restore the public’s faith in the municipal government.
The city has never done an “across-the-board” process determining the costs for each program, Chief of Staff Mark Sobczak told a group of high-ranking city employees. He made his comments before a webinar with Colorado-based consultants hired to shepherd the city through a review of its budgeting practices.
Toledo City Council unanimously voted last month to spend up to $50,000 from the city’s general fund to hire the Center for Priority Based Budgeting, of Englewood, Colo. The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce contributed another $44,500 to help the city pay the firm’s $94,500 anticipated bill.
“This is a very serious undertaking for us, but also an opportunity,” Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said.
The mayor said the process will help convince voters to renew the city’s temporary income tax.
The tax will be on the ballot in November, but the mayor has not yet said whether she will ask for a renewal of the existing 0.75 percent income tax, an increase, or a combination that includes the existing tax and an additional amount.
Voters in March rejected a 1 percent temporary tax to replace the 0.75 percent tax.
Mr. Sobczak said the 70-minute webinar, held at the University of Toledo’s Driscoll Alumni Center, was “a good overview” of the program.
The Hicks-Hudson administration intends to identify the cost of all city programs and prioritize each, he said.
“Part of the process we learned in today’s exercise is to be in better communications with the citizens,” Mr. Sobczak said.
Eileen Granata, the city’s chief operating officer, said the group will compile a database and produce a report after doing a series of interviews with city officials, employees, and residents. It will include recommendations and data that could be used to help create the city’s 2017 budget, she said.
City Finance Director George Sarantou asked all city directors to start writing their budgets for 2017.
“Clearly, this process gets us thinking what are the important things and how do we deliver those services in the most efficient manner,” he said. “This is an exercise the city hasn’t been through, and it was a great start.”
Mr. Sarantou said the process will include seeking input from the public.
Councilman Sandy Spang, who pushed for changing the city’s budgeting process in her unsuccessful mayoral campaign last year, said she has high hopes for the program. “If it is done with transparency, it is going to be an opportunity for the public to be able to establish priorities for spending,” she said. “I hope it will be a tool for the city to achieve fiscal health and restore the public faith in the budgeting process.”
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