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Published: Wednesday, 2/25/2009

Council cool to tax-credit cut

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A key piece of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's budget-balancing plan got a lukewarm response at best from Toledo City Council yesterday during its agenda review meeting. The proposal would generate $5.2 million in 2009 by cutting 50 percent of the income tax credit for residents working in other cities.

Councilman Joe McNamara predicted the measure would get too few votes to pass, and three of his colleagues said they won't support it.

Councilmen Frank Szollosi, Lindsay Webb, and Michael Ashford took issue with Mr. Finkbeiner's idea. "A tax increase at this point is wrong," Mr. Szollosi said.

If approved, about 19,200 Toledoans who work in neighboring communities would pay more income tax. City residents working in other places that have income taxes now get a 100 percent credit for taxes paid to those respective cities. Mr. Finkbeiner wants those residents to get credit for just half of what's paid to the other city.

Under the proposal, a Toledoan making $36,000 and working in a city with a 1.5 percent tax would pay an additional $270 to Toledo. If that person worked in a city with a 2.25 percent tax rate, it would mean $405 more to Toledo.

"I think it is penny wise and pound foolish," Ms. Webb said.

Mr. Ashford said many of those 19,200 people would move out of Toledo.

Council President Mark Sobczak advised council against forming an opinion too early and to wait to hear the facts during a public hearing set for 4:30 p.m. Monday. "The time to vet that will be at the hearing," he said.

Mr. McNamara said councilmen should choose to lead and offer alternatives rather than opposing the plan outright.

"We all own the problem," he said. "It's not enough to be against something. We are elected to lead."

Mr. Finkbeiner said yesterday that Mr. McNamara was premature in counting seven votes against the idea. "Last time I checked, Mark Sobczak was president of council, and he keeps a pretty good tab on things. This past weekend, he was of the opinion the votes were there," he said.

The mayor added: "The alternatives aren't very attractive: a refuse fee being boosted by not $1 to $4 per person, [but] $5 to make up for that $5 million across the city.

"I know there isn't anybody on council who wants a policeman or a fireman laid off, nor do I, but there must be an alternative rather than someone just saying, 'I am going to vote no,'•" Mayor Finkbeiner said.

Seven votes would be needed to approve the measure. A 6-6 tie would leave it up to the mayor, should he choose to cast a vote.

The mayor has proposed a combination of cutbacks and revenue increases to fill a $14 million budget hole.

The mayor also wants to generate about $175,000 by freezing the city's trash fee at $7 for those who don't recycle and $2 for those who do. Otherwise, the fee will change May 1 to $8.50 a month for those who don't recycle and drop to $1 for those who do.

Council yesterday postponed discussing that proposal until it receives more information on an idea to hand over Toledo's trash collection to a private firm to save the city $3.6 million a year.

Mr. Finkbeiner wants to save $2.5 million by reducing overtime in the fire department, reassigning more firefighters to the line, and taking a fire truck out of service.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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