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Published: Friday, 9/17/2004

GOP councilmen want an early renewal of 0.75% tax

Three Republican members of Toledo City Council declared their support for early renewal of the 0.75-percent income tax, and called on Democrats to do the same.

Councilmen Rob Ludeman, George Sarantou, and Betty Shultz said the ballot issue is important to maintaining city services.

They said the GOP's executive committee endorsed the measure Tuesday.

"This is far and away the most important issue facing the citizens of Toledo" on the Nov. 2 ballot, Mr. Ludeman said. The District 2 councilman is considering a run for mayor.

Democrats promptly responded that they are just as committed to passing the ballot issue as the GOP.

Mayor Ford's spokesman, Mary Chris Skeldon, said Mr. Ford "fully supports the three-quarters-percent renewal."

She said Mr. Ford already has appointed police Chief Michael Navarre and fire Chief Michael Bell to lead the campaign.

"Speakers are being scheduled, and volunteers are being recruited. Fund-raising is also getting under way," Ms. Skeldon said.

Council voted 12-0 on Aug. 19 to ask voters to renew the temporary income tax with a different distribution formula.

Currently, one-third of the money raised by the tax - about $17.5 million - is earmarked for the capital improvements budget, and the remaining two-thirds goes into the city's general fund.

The proposed change would allow council to reduce the amount going to the capital budget to one-sixth. That would allow up to $8.75 million additional cash to go to the general fund, to help stave off a projected $14 million deficit.

However, Mr. Ford and council leaders have agreed to limit the transfer to no more than $4 million. The general fund pays for most services, including police, fire, parks, administration, mayor, and council.

Standing outside police headquarters yesterday, the three Republicans said passage of the tax issue shouldn't be taken for granted, even though there is no organized opposition.

"I'm concerned with what I perceive as apathy from the administration, especially," Mr. Ludeman said. "I don't know whether it's a reaction to council rejecting the garbage tax. I do perceive there's an apathy on the 22nd floor in pushing this to passage."

Council originated the plan to shift some of the 0.75-percent tax to the general fund. As an alternative, Mr. Ford unsuccessfully pushed for creation of a trash collection fee, possibly $5 per month.

Jerry Chabler, finance chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said Democrats will consider endorsing the 0.75-percent renewal and other measures at their Oct. 5 meeting. He accused the Republicans of playing politics.

"The dismal tax receipts are the result of a bad national economy under a Republican president. I think it's disingenuous on their part," he said.

This year's capital budget is $30 million. The money is spent on road and bridge repair, upgrading city buildings and parks, and spurring economic development, such as in the Marina District.

So far, neither the Ford administration nor council has produced a list of projects that might be affected by the loss of capital funds.

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