Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday justified the new shower stall in his 22nd-floor office as a way to work more efficiently for the city - despite adding to an unexpected $4.5 million deficit suddenly forecast for 2006.
The mayor said he wants to begin jogging during his lunch hour and needs a shower in his office so he can get back to work quickly.
The mayor's staff told City Council finance leaders yesterday that the general operating fund faces a deficit of $4.5 million this year - a reversal from an anticipated surplus.
It was council's first look at the mayor's plans for the 2006 budget, which must be passed by March 31.
Councilman George Saran-tou, chairman of council's finance committee, said police and fire overtime and health costs were higher in 2005 than expected. And he said revenues in the fourth quarter did not live up to optimistic projections.
He said cuts in spending can be made without delaying the hiring of a 30-member police class in March or affecting trash collection or fire protection.
"The last couple of years our deficits have been 10 to 14 million dollars. I'm confident we can find the cuts without affecting delivery of services," Mr. Sarantou said.
Former Mayor Jack Ford submitted a proposed budget of $235.1 million on Nov. 15, with $1.5 million targeted to begin to replenish the rainy-day fund.
Councilman Frank Szollosi said it is unlikely money will be available for the rainy-day fund.
He said the mayor's office shower stall and other refurbishments were too expensive.
The fitting out of a long-unfinished shower stall in the mayor's personal bathroom has raised eyebrows because the $9,996 price tag fell $4 short of the $10,000 threshold at which a council vote is required.
Mr. Finkbeiner downplayed the cost of the shower and said it ultimately will pay for itself by allowing him and his successors to make better use of their time. He predicted the cost will fall short of the $9,996 projected by the Reuben Co., which manages the building for the Ohio Building Authority and which controls any renovations in the building.
However, Michael Sullivan, the property manager for Reuben who ordered the work at the mayor's request, was doubtful that the cost would decline.
"I don't see how," he said.
City facilities administrator Dale Raczkowski acknowledged that he asked Mr. Sullivan to cut the original estimate of $10,006 by $10 to get below the $10,000 ceiling. He said it was not done to avoid council scrutiny, but rather to avoid additional red tape triggered by the $10,000 threshold.
First Lady Amy Finkbeiner yesterday gave reporters and photographers a tour of the new shower and other improvements to the mayor's office.
She had 26 chairs or sofas reupholstered and a table repaired at a cost of $2,531. She showed pictures of other blemishes on mayoral furniture that she said conveys a bad image.
"The chairs were torn and tattered and certainly not giving the impression we wanted to give," Mrs. Finkbeiner said. "When the general public comes up to meet with the mayor, we want to provide them with seating that is appealing."
In addition to the shower stall, the mayor had a storage area converted to an exercise room. Mrs. Finkbeiner said the shower and exercise facilities will cut the time the mayor now takes to drive to Medical University of Ohio for his workout.
The mayor said he plans to start running outside when it gets warmer. He said he is determined to keep up his exercise schedule, having had heart bypass surgery two years ago.
He said he would prefer to exercise in the middle of the day than in the evening as he does now three or four times a week.
"After this surgery of mine, I was pretty fixed in my mind I was going to have a shower that was operational," he said.
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