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Published: Thursday, 12/4/2008

Toledo Municipal Court clerk, judge seek lower cuts

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bowman-English Bowman-English
JETTA FRASER/THE TOLEDO BLADE / THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The Toledo Municipal Court's clerk and presiding judge lodged their first public complaints yesterday against budget cuts they said would hinder the city's criminal justice system.

Municipal Clerk of Courts Vallie Bowman-English testified during a council committee hearing that she would have to lay off 10 people to meet Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's proposed $310,000 in cuts to her budget.

"The effect on service will be really dramatic," Mrs. Bowman-English said. "With service impacted, I believe our revenue will be impacted as well."

Judge Timothy Kuhlman, the court's presiding judge, likewise said he had a problem with a proposed cut of $453,111 for personnel services reimbursements.

"The number is too high," Judge Kuhlman said. "I can say with confidence that a $106,000 cut is what we can deal with."

Mayor Finkbeiner's proposed 2009 general operating fund budget slashes $21 million in spending across the city.

Last year, the mayor had sought deep cuts to security and pretrial services, but the city ultimately had to maintain some of that funding.

Last month, the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, in a 14-page decision, sided with the seven municipal court judges who argued that more funding was required to adequately protect the public while in the courthouse.

That essentially upheld their authority to order city officials to give them more money.

Council President Mark Sobczak, during yesterday's law and criminal justice committee hearing, said he understood the court's dilemma.

"There is not a department in the city that can't make the same claim that they are doing more with less," he said. "We understand these aren't easy choices No department is going to get away unscathed."

Mrs. Bowman-English responded: "I understand that, but $310,000 is totally unreasonable."

She said the court has cut back for years and has looked for ways to save money.

The mayor's proposed budget of just more than $249 million is a 1.86 percent decrease from the 2008 budget of $254 million.

In addition to essentially shutting down the city for four days, its proposals include laying off 40 workers and eliminating 36 jobs that currently are unfilled; granting no pay raises except for members of Teamsters Local 20, the union representing trash collectors, because of a previous deal; requiring health insurance co-payments from all city employees, and closing all but one city pool and a splash pad.

The proposal that has drawn the most attention is to cancel planned police cadet and firefighter classes.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of the law and criminal justice committee, said there has to be an agreement on the court's budget.

"If there is not a compromise, given the mandate that we have a balanced budget, hopefully before March 31, the general fund, as it relates to the delivery of services, will have to be compromised," Mr. Collins said. "Police and fire is the only place we can grab more dollars."

Mr. Collins has said repeatedly he would not support a 2009 budget that does not fund hiring new police officers and firefighters.

Council must vote on the general fund budget by March 31.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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