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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Mayor unlikely to call on council

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Collins Collins
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner will likely decline an invitation to appear before Toledo City Council for what would be a hostile question and answer session on his $14.2 million budget-balancing plan, a top official in his administration said yesterday.

"I don't see anything that would be accomplished by him appearing before a committee of the whole," said Robert Reinbolt, chief of staff to the mayor.

"The administration is available to answer any questions at any time."

Councilman D. Michael Collins, who has criticized the process the mayor used to arrive at his plan to balance multimillion-dollar deficits in the 2008 and 2009 general fund budgets, petitioned Mr. Finkbeiner to appear in person and explain his rationale.

Mr. Reinbolt said there would be no reason for him to appear.

"I think what Councilman Collins is asking for is for a chance for him to ask some of his political questions," he said. "That's up to the mayor, but I don't see that occurring."

Mr. Finkbeiner proposed last week a combination of cutbacks and new revenue streams to fill the budget holes. His plan, if council approves, would require Toledoans who work in another city to pay more income tax.

The mayor has not appeared before council since he briefly attended the Jan. 2, 2008, meeting to cast a tie-breaking vote to elect Mark Sobczak council president over Michael Ashford.

"I would hope the mayor would reconsider," Mr. Collins said. "These are extremely difficult times and we have very, very challenging issues confronting us, and it is going to take a cooperative effort with the administration and city council if we are going to be able to navigate through our economic circumstances."

Mr. Collins yesterday also sent a letter to the mayor asking him to hire four auditors and a lawyer for the city's finance department to try to collect some of the outstanding $21 million owed to the city from delinquent taxes.

"In my opinion, the total debt is for all practical purposes not collectable," Mr. Collins wrote. "Having said that, I do believe that we could recover 25 percent."

The city is in serious financial straits.

Mr. Finkbeiner's plan only partially addresses an $8.1 million shortfall from 2008. Under the plan, the city will close the books on last year with a deficit of about $1.7 million, in violation of state law. His plan calls for putting all nonunion employees - about 150 people - on nine-hour shifts for four days a week.

The largest part of his budget plan - which needs council approval - includes generating $5.2 million by eliminating 50 percent of Toledo's tax credit with other cities. It would affect about 19,000 city residents.

The city currently grants a 100 percent credit to residents who work outside Toledo and pay taxes to the city where they work. The credit allows some city residents not to pay any income taxes to Toledo.

Mr. Reinbolt said city council would receive legislation on the tax credit Tuesday.

Mr. Finkbeiner also wants to save $2.5 million by reducing overtime in the fire department, reassigning more firefighters to the line, and taking a fire truck from West Toledo out of service. The elimination of the ladder truck is being fought by the firefighters' union.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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