A divided Toledo City Council yesterday adopted a 2007 budget that establishes a $5.50 monthly trash collection fee $3 for those who recycle.
The budget keeps open five swimming pools this summer but users of the those pools will have to fork over a $1 admission fee.
The 7-5 vote came after council whittled about $600,000 in additional cuts out of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s proposed $247.6 million budget.
Council was under a deadline to act by today, or lose its authority to spend money.
Mayor Finkbeiner said after the vote the budget agreement preserves the services that citizens expect.
He said the trash fee $2.50 less per month than he had requested is extremely modest, considering the unlimited service currently provided.
I think most citizens would much prefer unlimited pickup as opposed to us restricting the amount of refuse you can put out, Mr. Finkbeiner said.
After months of closed-door and committee discussion of the budget, council as a whole sank its teeth into the budget for the first time on Monday.
Initial efforts focused on the attempt by five A-team Democrats and Republican Joe Birmingham to defeat the trash fee by finding $3.8 million in savings.
One proposal called for transferring $600,000 from the city s $5.4 million rainy-day fund and $750,000 from the capital improvements fund, and cutting $1.8 million, mostly in personnel.
Those moves were rejected, but council did agree to a 0.5-percent across-the-board cut in all general fund departments other than police and fire to save $458,351 and to cut the $50,000 planned for Toledo Sister Cities International.
The budget agreement also requires exempt employees about 180 people to contribute a combined $100,000 toward their health insurance, which is currently free to them.
The breakthrough was achieved after two days of deadlock when Mr. Birmingham agreed to support the trash fee and Democratic Councilman Mark Sobczak reversed his previous decision to abstain, casting his vote in favor of the fee.
In addition to Mr. Birmingham and Mr. Sobczak, councilmen who voted for the final budget were Republicans Rob Ludeman, Betty Shultz, and George Sarantou, and Democrats Wilma Brown and Phil Copeland.
Voting against the budget were Democrats Michael Ashford, Mike Craig, Ellen Grachek, Joe McNamara, and Frank Szollosi.
Mr. Sobczak abstained from earlier votes on the trash fee because he is vice president of Teamsters Local 20, which represents about 250 employees, mostly in refuse and waste collection.
He said he was advised he could vote for the budget bill, even though he abstained several times on trash-fee related ordinances on Thursday.
Mr. Birmingham said he accepted the trash fee because the budget had been cut as much as possible.
We can t cut anymore without cutting in police, Mr. Birmingham said.
He said he expects the administration to follow through on promises to change the way city government services are provided and paid for in time to avoid another budget showdown in 2008, when the deficit could top $17 million.
The budget provides no money for a new police class or firefighter class, and it ends city funding of school crossing guards when the school year ends.
It eliminates or downgrades 124 positions, including five directors or executive directors. Council has yet to decide on the mayor s cost-cutting move of putting both the police and fire departments under Police Chief Michael Navarre.
The trash fee, which is expected to raise $2.9 million in 2007, expires on April 30, 2008.
The fee is aimed at subsidizing the $16 million annual expense of unlimited weekly trash pickup and dumping in the city-owned landfill in North Toledo.
The administration has not ruled out changing the way trash is collected.
For example, Public Service Director Bill Franklin said privatizing trash collection would save $12 million a year immediately, although it likely would result in large monthly fees.
Several councilmen said they would have preferred a pay as you throw fee, under which residents would have purchased preprinted 30-gallon bags at 75 cents each, but dropped the plan in the face of public outcry.
Mr. Finkbeiner first proposed a monthly fee of $6, with a reduced rate of $3.50 for eligible senior citizens. Later, he upped his proposal to $8, with a rate of $5 for people who recycle, which would have raised $4.2 million this year.
The fee will be added to property owners water and sewer bills.
The administration has said it will monitor the recycling pledge cards by using supervisors to do spot checks.
About 17 percent of citizens participate in the free biweekly curbside recycling collection. Council President Ludeman said it is anticipated the participation rate will increase to 40 percent with the opportunity to save $2.50 a month.
The mayor accused his critics on council of engaging in personal and vindictive agenda, adding, I regret that our citizens must put up with ongoing negatives from some council persons.
Mr. Szollosi, perhaps Mr. Finkbeiner s most outspoken antagonist on council, said, I sit in that seat as a representative of the citizens and taxpayers, and I felt very justified in my defense of their interests in trying to keep the administration s spending in check.
Contact Tom Troy at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6058.