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Published: Thursday, 10/22/2009

Mayor fights plan to cut deficit

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner voiced his opposition Wednesday to a plan suggested by Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara for paying down Toledo's deficit by $2.5 million.

Mr. McNamara's plan is similar to one offered by Mr. Finkbeiner himself in August.

Council could vote next week on Mr. McNamara's plan to spend most of the $3.9 million of capital improvement money left over from voters' rejection last month of the Safety First plan.

That issue would have changed the allocation of the city's 0.75 percent temporary income tax and shifted money from capital improvements toward general-fund expenses such as police and fire salaries.

Mr. McNamara wants to use most of the money to pay 2010 debt-service costs for the purchase of automated trash trucks and containers.

He said the plan would cut the city's $7.8 million deficit by $2.5 million and, because council is also considering accepting $3.2 million from FirstEnergy Solutions through the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition, the deficit would fall to $2.1 million.

The $3.9 million was set aside in the 2009 capital improvement budget pending voter approval in September.

The mayor originally supported the Safety First plan and even gave Mr. McNamara kudos for drafting the plan to take money from the capital improvement budget for police and fire.

But Mr. Finkbeiner abruptly withdrew his support.

He said the measure went too far in that it took funding from capital projects for all three years - not just from the current year.

After withdrawing his support of the then-Issue 1, the mayor proposed his own legislation to place a question on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to allow a one-time transfer of $3.9 million from the 2009 capital improvements fund to the general fund.

Council rejected Mr. Finkbeiner's proposal, with only Councilmen Michael Ashford and Betty Shultz voting in favor of putting the question on the upcoming ballot.

In a letter to council Wednesday, Mr. Finkbeiner said "Councilman McNamara is attempting to end-run the citizens' vote and circumvent the citizens' stance on [capital improvement] funds by proposing an alternative usage for $3.9 million of [capital improvement] funds."

On Tuesday, Mr. McNamara said he would have expected Mr. Finkbeiner to support the new plan because it mirrors the alternative ballot question he had sought to place on the Nov. 3 ballot.

"Mayor Finkbeiner has it backwards," he said Wednesday. "The failure of Issue 1 made paying for the trucks out of the general fund unaffordable. Spending taxpayer money needed for police and fire protection on new garbage trucks is irresponsible."

Mr. McNamara said council has repeatedly rejected tax increases and is working to reduce the deficit.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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