Toledo Mayor Jack Ford said yesterday the city budget will take a $2 million hit this year because of its obligations to make the payments on debts for three downtown apartment projects.
He also sought to clarify his plan to provide lawn mowers and snow blowers to teen entrepreneurs. He said he plans to make them pay for the machines while they use them to make money.
In his third week as mayor, Mr. Ford summarized the issues facing him in a speech to the Toledo Rotary Club at the Zenobia Shrine.
He said the city has spent $1.08 million to make scheduled payments on general obligation bonds for the Commodore Perry, Hillcrest, and Museum Place apartment projects. In addition, $900,000 or more may have to be paid this year, he said.
The money was taken out of block grant funds last year, but the city later learned it couldn't used the money for that purpose. The city will have to reimburse the block grant this year from its general fund.
That and several other fiscal problems will increase the city's budget shortfall to about $19 million, he said.
Mr. Ford said he intends to live up to his campaign promise of devoting 30 percent of his time to issues involving youth. One of his proposals was to promote youth enterprise by spending $10,000 to buy them lawn mowers and snow blowers.
“None of the programs we have in mind are giveaway programs. We plan to sell the equipment to youngsters,” the mayor said. He has revealed few details of the project.
“What I talked about was finding the money, purchasing the equipment, and then selling it to youngsters over time, let them retain ownership but then hustle as much as they want to make money,” Mr. Ford said.
The mayor said his goal is to give teens a taste of how it feels to earn money based on how hard they work.
Mr. Ford said he wants Toledo to be known nationally as “a city that has embraced young folks in positive ways.”
Mr. Ford asked for help with the Toledo Public Schools. He told the group that teachers and principals are working hard, but he said parents are not doing their part.
“Our big failure [is] parents, particularly in some of our older neighborhoods,” Mr. Ford said. “They're not doing enough. I suspect some parents could not help their children with homework if they wanted to because they didn't learn the material.”
He plans to meet with 75 religious leaders on Saturday and urge them and their members to help in the schools as tutors, or in other ways. He sought to squelch concerns about stepping on the First Amendment.
“This is nothing about blurring the line between church and state, but rather going through an organization that has strong connections with members of their congregation that need their help,” Mr. Ford said.
The administration has turned over to City Council a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denying permission to use community development block grants for debt service on three buildings that received general obligation loans backed by the city.
The Department of Neighborhoods informed council that it expects to pay at least $406,113 this year on behalf of two of the projects - the Commodore Perry and Museum Place. Yesterday, Mr. Ford doubled that number.
The payments started in December, 1999, with $78,083 for Museum Place. In June, 2000, the administration paid $52,080 for Museum Place debts. In December, 2000, the city made the first of its payments for the Commodore Perry, $150,755. In June, 2001, the administration paid $227,311 for the Commodore Perry and $109,137 for Museum Place. The largest payments occurred in December, when the city paid $247,311 on behalf of the Commodore Perry, $164,447 for Museum Place, and $53,011 for the Hillcrest.