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Published: Wednesday, 8/19/2009

Toledo council rejects funding plan

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council last night shot down Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s hopes for an alternative ballot issue in November that would shift income tax revenues to help balance the city s general operating budget.

Last week, the mayor withdrew his support of Issue 1 a question on the Sept. 15 ballot that is also called the Safety First Plan. If voters approve the measure, it would shift money from capital improvements to the general fund and police and fire through 2012.

Council voted last night 9-2 against the mayor s legislation to place a question on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to allow only a one-time transfer of $3.9 million from the capital improvements fund to the general fund.

Councilman Mike Craig blasted the mayor for making the request.

I really see no reason to put this on in November except to confuse the voters, Mr. Craig said. If this were to pass, it would strap the next mayor with an inflexible budget and possibly not being able to balance the budget. It s very, very shortsighted.

Councilmen Michael Ashford and Betty Shultz voted in favor of putting the question on the November ballot. Phillip Copeland was not present.

Issue 1 would change the way the 0.75 percent renewable income tax is allocated. Currently, one-third of the tax goes to capital improvements, one-third to the general fund, and one-third to police and fire.

If approved, for the remainder of 2009, all of the money would go toward the general fund and police and fire operations. For 2010, 2011, and 2012, the allocation would be one-half to police and fire, one-third to the general fund, and one-sixth to capital improvements.

If it is defeated on Sept. 15, the city will be short $3.9 million for the 2009 spending budget.

Mr. Ashford said he wanted voters to have the option of selecting how their tax dollars are spent.

I think voters are smart enough, they are informed enough, they can be educated enough, he said.

Council President Joe McNamara said the city has used capital improvement money in the past to balance the general fund budget including $8 million for the 2008 budget.

Councilman Steven Steel said the Safety First Plan was proposed months ago and the mayor should have offered his opinions earlier.

We are 28 days from an election right now and we can t pull back from the strength this council has shown 28 days from an election, Mr. Steel said.

Councilman George Sarantou said the city needs the kind of flexibility offered by the Safety First Plan.

This was a four-year plan, not a one-year plan, he said.

Also yesterday, council voted 10-1 to approve a new three-year contract with the union representing police command officers.

Mr. McNamara said the new contract would save the city $1.2 million bringing the 2009 general fund deficit to $7.8 million.

If the Safety First Plan is passed, the shortfall will be $3.8 million.

Councilman Frank Szollosi cast the lone vote against the contract.

It is like the other labor contracts I voted against this year, Mr. Szollosi said.

I don t think the city can afford them. The pension rollback for six months is not sufficient and it should be through the life of the contract.

Council already has approved new three-year contracts this year with Toledo Firefighters Local 92 and the Toledo Police Patrolman s Association.

The contract requires the employees to pay 7 percent toward their own pension program for six months. The city will resume paying the entire 10 percent employee share of the pension payment, which is on top of the employer s contribution of 19.5 percent. Any newly hired employees will pay the full 10 percent of the employee s pension share.

The pacts freeze wages through 2009 and 2010 but grant a 3.5 percent raise starting Jan. 1, 2011.

The command officers contract has the same terms.

In other business, Mr. Sarantou lobbied against a proposal by Councilman D. Michael Collins to shut down the South Toledo Golf Club dome at 3915 Heatherdowns Blvd. by revoking its special-use permit. Mr. Collins said the business s owner, Greg Fish, violated terms of the permit by allowing part of the inflatable dome to lie draped over a permanent deck structure. The permit allows Mr. Fish to keep the dome inflated November through April. It is deflated the rest of the year.

Mr. Sarantou sent the legislation to council s zoning and planning committee, which Mr. Collins said was an attempt to bury the legislation.

I do not believe now is the time to be closing down a thriving business, Mr. Sarantou said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.



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