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Published: Monday, 2/9/2009

More city cuts, layoffs anticipated

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is expected to announce tomorrow more cutbacks, "salary adjustments" for some of his top staff, and a temporary but "indefinite layoff" for a number of city employees to cut costs in the face of an $8.1 million deficit from last year and a shortfall now expected for 2009.

"Everything is on the table and we are looking at a number of options," said Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff.

In December, the Finkbeiner administration sent out more than 1,000 layoff notices to city employees. Mr. Reinbolt said the number of employees forced to take time off beginning next week would be "significantly reduced," but the length of time had yet be determined.

"It's not going to be days," Mr. Reinbolt said. "It's going to be weeks."

The Finkbeiner administration initially said it would not include police officers and firefighters in the temporary layoffs but later revised the statement, saying those employees also could be laid off.

Mr. Reinbolt said the number of officers patrolling the streets would remain intact, as would the number of on-duty firefighters - which is contractually required to be at least 103.

Among the possible cuts is the city's nine-horse mounted patrol, which is budgeted this year to cost taxpayers roughly $24,000 for "operating costs," $55,000 for the building's lease,

$560,000 for eight officers, and $80,000 more for a sergeant, totaling $719,000.

Toledo City Council learned Jan. 29 that the city is about $8.1 million in the red from 2008. Council in December already had used $8 million of unspent capital improvement money to help plug a deficit, so the new figure came as a shock to some people.

That deficit was discovered after approval of the 2009 city budget, which had $21 million in cuts. This year's budget does not include money to hire police cadets or firefighters and requires layoffs and mandated unpaid time off for city employees, the closing of all but one public pool, a reduction of funds for the city's criminal justice program and Toledo Municipal Court, and wage freezes for city workers.

The city's $6.4 million rainy-day fund could be applied to the 2008 deficit, but because $2 million of that money is earmarked for the 2009 general-fund budget, the 2009 plan now needs to be revised.

"What we are really hoping for now is that police and fire in their negotiations will step up and do the right thing like Local 7 did," Mr. Reinbolt said regarding the city's ongoing talks with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association and Toledo Firefighters Local 92.

Employees in the 800-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7 - the largest city of Toledo union - accepted a three-year contract that freezes salaries for the first two years while increasing co-pay costs for health care, among other concessions.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a critic of the mayor and his spending, faulted Mr. Finkbeiner for letting the city's deficit get out of control.

"No one in the first and second quarters could have predicted the shape we would be in, but we knew in the fourth quarter where we were and we continued to spend," Mr. Collins said. "When you are going into the fourth quarter knowing you are going to have a multimillion shortfall closing your books, as business you grab each department head and say, 'No spending, no spending, no spending unless absolutely necessary.'•"

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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