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Published: Tuesday, 5/12/2009

Toledo City Council unlikely to vote Tuesday on fee, tax hike

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Toledo City Council meets Tuesday, but is likely to remain unmoved by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's continued appeal to raise taxes and fees.

In an open letter in The Blade Saturday, Mayor Finkbeiner described his prescription for solving a $21 million deficit: 15 percent pay cuts for city workers and "revenue enhancements" from city council.

"We can survive if we are unselfish, willing to sacrifice, and put the American people - and the people of Toledo - ahead of our political careers, or our individual welfare," said the mayor's ad, described as paid out of private donations.

<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW:</b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO66475511.PDF" target="_blank "><b> Carty Finkbeiner's letter to the city of Toledo </b></a>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW:</b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO66475511.PDF" target="_blank "><b> Carty Finkbeiner's letter to the city of Toledo </b></a>
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Mark Sobczak, the council's president, said Monday neither of the two major revenue increase measures sought by the mayor is likely to come up for a vote today, although he didn't rule out such increases eventually.

"The major portion has to come from downsizing government, cutting expenses, reaching contracts with the unions that are more along the lines of the citizens we serve," Mr. Sobczak said.

"If I raise revenue before I get a deal with the union, what's going to stop the union from going after that same revenue?" he said.

The administration has been trying to get the police and fire unions to accept a 10 percent wage cut, to give up the 10 percent contribution that city taxpayers make to their retirement accounts on top of the mandatory employer's share, and to begin contributing up to $55 a month toward health-care coverage that, according to Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt, costs the city between $700 and $800 a month per employee.

From council, the mayor is asking approval of an increase in the trash collection fee, from $8.50 to $10 for people who do not recycle and from $1 to $7 for those who do.

And he is seeking to cut in half, from 100 percent to 50, the city income tax credit granted to Toledoans who work outside the city and pay income taxes in another jurisdiction.

Councilman Joe McNamara also said it would be premature to raise taxes on Toledoans before settlements are reached with city employee unions, beginning with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, whose contract expired Dec. 31.

Mr. McNamara said he has called on the mayor to attend city council meetings in person.

Mr. Finkbeiner rarely attends council meetings, even though a seat is reserved for him.

"A lack of trust exists between the bargaining units and the mayor and council and the mayor.

"If [Mr. Finkbeiner] was there engaging in a dialogue, I think that might help the trust deficit and make everyone understand how bad the situation is," Mr. McNamara said.

He said Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman attends some Columbus City Council meetings.

Mr. Finkbeiner was not available yesterday for comment, but said in an interview May 2 that the mayors of strong-mayor cities do not attend council meetings.

"That's why you elect a president of Toledo City Council," he said.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association union representing 482 police officers, said yesterday that "the mayor's just trying to use terroristic tactics."

He said the police unions will stick with the negotiating schedule, which calls for the union and city to meet for a second time with a fact-finder at the end of the month.

Mr. Wagner said the TPPA and Firefighters Local 29 have subpoenaed University of Toledo professor Oleg Smirnov for a sworn deposition tomorrow at the police union hall.

The unions want Mr. Smirnov to answer questions about predictions he and another UT academic made in February about an abrupt decline in city income tax revenue in 2009.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance and budget committee, also said the two revenue increases proposed by the mayor will stay where they are for now.

"Until we get some cost-savings from negotiations, I have to weigh that as opposed to raising fees and raising taxes. It sends the message that we can tax our way out," Mr. Sarantou said.

Mr. Finkbeiner vowed in his open letter to return 40 percent of his salary, which is $136,000 a year.

And he is requesting his nonunion staff members who received a city salary and a state pension, so-called "double dippers," to take 40 percent pay cuts.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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