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Published: Monday, 3/23/2009

Toledo's budget deficit swells to at least $22 million

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The increasing Toledo budget deficit has swelled to about $22 million, Councilman George Sarantou said Monday.

"It's gotten larger. Tax receipts are down, failure to pass the income tax [credit] - this is not a good thing," Mr. Sarantou, chairman of council finance committee, said. "The worst case scenario could be $27 million, but I think it will be $22 million."

That number - which is the amount the city must either cut from its 2009 spending or make up with greater revenue streams - is up from the $15 million figure Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced earlier this month and the $16.9 million Clerk of Council Gerry Dendinger calculated on March 14.

Mr. Sarantou said Finkbeiner administration officials told him, Council President Mark Sobczak, and Councilman D. Michael Collins of the new projection on Friday.

"It was basically a budget task force meeting and the three of us agreed we should have a meeting right away," Mr. Sarantou said.

Council has scheduled a committee of the whole meeting for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The mayor has offered several measures to slash spending.

Mayor Finkbeiner said he would lay off 75 Toledo police officers to help close the deficit but that move would save the city just $3.5 million through the end of 2009. The savings take into account unemployment costs the city will have to pay after the May 1 layoffs.

The Finkbeiner administration is hoping for a federal bailout in the form of a $34 million "Cops Hiring Grant."

The mayor said that not only would prevent the layoffs but also would allow the city to hire 75 more police officers.

On Friday, most of the city of Toledo's nonunion employees started 36-hour work weeks, which means a 10 percent pay cut for about 100 general fund employees.

Mr. Finkbeiner said it will save the city's general fund $500,000.

The city expects to collect $145 million from income taxes - a sharp drop from the $169.6 million the city collected in 2007.

The mayor placed some of the fault for the planned layoffs on council because it rejected his plan to generate $5.2 million through the end of 2009 by cutting 50 percent of the income tax credit for the 19,200 residents employed in other cities.

The mayor's proposal met with strong opposition from Toledoans who work in the suburbs and elsewhere.



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