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Published: 8/27/2009

Finkbeiner criticizes McNamara, tax plan

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner continued yesterday to attack and publicly oppose a question on the September ballot that, if approved, would reduce the city's general fund deficit this year by $3.9 million.

But the outgoing mayor offered no alternative to how that money would be replaced if voters on Sept. 15 defeat Issue 1 - which would alter the way Toledo's 0.75 percent renewable income tax is allocated.

In a terse letter, Mr. Finkbeiner criticized Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara regarding an Aug. 21 correspondence.

"From the content of your correspondence, it is apparent that you are either misinformed or simply lack a basic understanding of governmental budgeting," the letter read.

Mr. Finkbeiner initially supported passage of Issue 1, signed a resolution in support of it, and even praised Mr. McNamara for drafting the plan. He changed positions on Aug. 10 and urged voters to reject it.

"Against the backdrop of council paralysis, you have proposed a scheme that will only partially address the budget deficit we face," the mayor wrote yesterday. "This tactic, euphemistically called Safety First, will deprive the city of much needed capital improvement funds and only worsen the city's infrastructure."

Mr. Finkbeiner has also said the plan would eliminate funding for residential street repaving through 2012, but Mr. McNamara rejected that claim.

Mr. McNamara yesterday ac-knowledged that the mayor has not offered an alternative way to plug the $3.9 million hole and that Mr. Finkbeiner instead has continuously asked for tax and fee increases on Toledoans when council has refused to take that action.

"Mayor Finkbeiner seems confused these days and has apparently forgotten that the 2009 budget plan we depend on to maintain police protection has always rested on voter approval of the Safety First plan," Mr. McNamara said.

"The mayor's reckless opposition to Issue 1 jeopardizes the safety of our neighborhoods and our families by putting at risk the jobs of 200 Toledo police officers," he said. "It is critical that Toledoans understand what is at stake here and vote yes on Issue 1."

Because layoffs require a 30-day notice, to recoup the loss of the $3.9 million from the public safety budget, the city would have to lay off 200 police officers beginning Oct. 16.

Issue 1 would change the way Toledo's 0.75 percent renewable income tax is allocated. One-third of the tax now 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 half to police and fire, one-third to the general fund, and one-sixth to capital improvements.

In his letter to Mr. McNamara, the mayor said council could reduce the deficit, which stands at about $7.8 million, by voting on "40 pieces of legislation in committee."

Among those are an increase to the monthly trash collection fee and slashing the 100 percent income tax credit given to Toledoans who work and pay taxes in other locales.

After withdrawing his support of Issue 1, the mayor proposed 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. A majority of council rejected the legislation.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said the mayor's memo yesterday was deceptive and misleading to voters.

"We need to do as councils before this mayor have done, and that is to get permission to use capital improvement money," Mr. Sarantou said.

"The No. 1 responsibility of government is public safety, not paving streets, and this mayor has forgotten the number one responsibility."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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