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Published: Friday, 3/26/2010

Bell rejects TPPA offer to hold re-vote on concession deal

BY TOM TROY AND IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Mayor Mike Bell has rejected an offer from the Toledo police officers' union to hold a re-vote on $2.4 million worth of concessions that the mayor wanted to balance the 2010 budget.

In a letter to Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, dated Thursday, Mayor Bell said he would decline the offer of a re-vote.

"Time is of the essence due to the city's March 31, 2010, deadline to have a balanced budget," the mayor said. "Accordingly we do not consent to the TPPA's request to re-vote the issue of the [proposed contract]."

The police union membership on Thursday defeated, by a vote of 222-198, a package of temporary concessions that had been negotiated by its leadership with the administration.

Mr. Wagner said the union did not proposed re-voting the same package.

"All we did was offer to sit down with [Mr. Bell] again. It was nothing about a re-vote," he said.

Mr. Wagner said it would be difficult but possible to put a new vote before his membership in time to meet Toledo City Council's deadline of passing a balanced budget.

Mr. Bell is trying to win approval of a variety of unpopular measures in time to enact a balanced city budget.

City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday to vote on the budget.

Mr. Bell could be in the position as soon as Monday to issue new layoff notices to 125 police officers, but firefighters have been assured the concessions they agreed to on Thursday in a membership vote would keep them on the job.

Toledo's deficit estimate stands at about $25 million — down from the previously reported $48 million — because of the concessions from the firefighters union, council-approved spending cuts, and expected revenues from several sources.

The deficit has been reduced by:

- $3.08 million from the concessions from Toledo Firefighters.

- $600,000 from attrition and delayed hiring.

- $700,000 from renegotiating vendor contracts and reduced purchasing.

- $250,000 from overtime reduction.

- $190,975 from eliminating certain city trust funds.

- $250,000 from reducing the police department non personnel budget.

- $350,000 from reducing the fire department non personnel budget.

- $3.03 million from collecting unpaid income taxes.

- $5 million from anticipated sale of city assets like land in Monclova Township and The Docks.

- $100,000 from increase motor vehicle accident billing.

- $1.2 million from collecting unpaid red light and speed camera fines.

- $52,000 from eliminating fee waivers for festivals.

- $300,000 from selling landfill space to private refuse haulers.

The city also trimmed another $8 million in spending from the budget submitted by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The reductions came from cutting funded but unfilled positions and slashing non personal costs in every city department like paper, gasoline, travel, postage, electric cost, and other costs, said Deputy Mayor of Operations Steve Herwat.

The Bell administration is still awaiting to hear about concessions from other unions and from City Council on requests to increase the monthly refuse to $15 a month, implement an 8 percent events tax, and eliminating the tax credit for Toledoans working outside the city.

Mayor Mike Bell has rejected an offer from the Toledo police officers' union to hold a re-vote on $2.4 million worth of concessions that the mayor wanted to balance the 2010 budget.

In a letter to Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, dated Thursday, Mayor Bell said he would decline the offer of a re-vote.

"Time is of the essence due to the city's March 31, 2010, deadline to have a balanced budget," the mayor said. "Accordingly we do not consent to the union's request to re-vote the issue of the [proposed contract]."

The union membership on Thursday defeated, by a vote of 222-198, a package of temporary concessions that had been negotiated by its leadership with the administration.

Mr. Bell is trying to win approval of a variety of unpopular measures in time to enact a balanced city budget and overcome a $48 million deficit.

Toledo City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Wednesday to vote on the budget.

Mr. Bell could be in the position as soon as Monday to issue new layoff notices to 125 police officers, but firefighters have been assured the concessions they agreed to on Thursday in a membership vote would keep them on the job.

The story as it appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com:

By IGNAZIO MESSINA

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo police again face layoffs after rejecting a set of temporary concessions yesterday, while Toledo firefighters last night overwhelmingly approved the same measures to help city officials deal with a $48 million deficit this year.

Mayor Mike Bell could be in the position as soon as Monday to issue new layoff notices to 125 police officers, but firefighters have been assured the concessions they agreed to would keep them on the job.

Mr. Bell promised yesterday to approach the no-vote by the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association with a “clear head” and not a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“Well, I'm disappointed,” Mayor Bell said after learning the police union voted down a memorandum of understanding to its existing contract.

“I am going to have to think about what I am going to do so I will back up until Monday,” the mayor said regarding reissuing 30-day layoff notices to police.

The police layoffs will save the city $4.08 million.

“One thing I don't want to do, and I can't do it morally, is make this city unsafe,” Mr. Bell said.

Members of Toledo Firefighters Local 92 voted 286 to 102 to accept a set of concessions totaling $3.08 million, givebacks that Mr. Bell said were similar to those rejected by police.

The police union was asked to help reduce the deficit by almost $2.4 million — of which nearly all could go eventually right back into the pockets of officers. But the offer was rejected by a 222 to 198 vote.

“I think those who voted no wanted to take a stance,” said Dan Wagner, TPPA president. “They thought there were continued and unwarranted attacks on our contract, and they wanted to take a stand.”

Wayne Hartford, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said firefighters agreed to pay 3 percent of their pension pickup until Jan. 1, 2011, and agreed to defer overtime payments and $340,000 in grievance payments owed by the city until March, 2011.

“Once again I am proud of my membership of standing up and taking the charge,” Mr. Hartford said. “I think firefighters historically have stepped up to help the city because they are proud and helpful people, and I hope that in the next contract negotiation the city will remember us.”

The mayor is also facing a City Council that seems unwilling or unable to act and is poised next week to reject the bulk of his requests for higher fees and taxes to help balance the budget.

Some members yesterday offered amendments to Mr. Bell's request that were easier on taxpayer pockets, but fell short of raising enough money to balance the budget.

“With this council, I am not sure,” Mr. Bell said. “I used to be hopeful. I am not so hopeful anymore.”

Council President Wilma Brown was less diplomatic about the union's rejection and about an apparent lack of willingness from other councilmen to increase the monthly trash fee and eliminate the tax credit for Toledoans working outside the city.

“I'm disgusted with the whole thing,” Ms. Brown said after a five-hour committee hearing on the budget.

“Now the police will have layoffs,” she said. “No one is willing to compromise.”

Mayor Bell had asked the TPPA for $500,000 by agreeing to pay 3 percent of their pension payments for nine months. He also asked to delay payment of $1.8 million in overtime until next year.

Councilman Lindsay Webb was shocked last night that the police union rejected the city's offer — which was a far cry from Mr. Bell's original demand for police officers to begin paying the full 10 percent employee share of their public pensions and 20 percent of the cost of their medical insurance.

“It was barely concessions and they turned it down,” Ms. Webb said.

The 3 percent pension payment the Bell administration put in the deal with police and fire forces would have been rolled back to nothing if voters in May give the city greater leeway over how a separate 0.75 percent income tax is allocated.

The city is asking voters to approve a plan to allow millions in tax revenue earmarked for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements to be transferred into the city general fund to help pay police and fire salaries.

Unknown now is how council will vote Tuesday on declaring “exigent circumstances” — a move that would force concessions on the TPPA and any other city union that does not accept them voluntarily.

Mr. Wagner said the TPPA has already prepared a request for a temporary restraining order should council vote to approve those measures at its meeting Tuesday, which is one day before the city must have a balanced budget.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a former TPPA president, advised against exigent circumstances last night.

“While we are under contract, there is no unilateral right to sever the contracts, in my opinion,” Mr. Collins said. “If we lose, and I think in all probability we will, we will have lost our city.”

Councilman Joe McNamara chastised Mr. Collins for making those statements publicly.

“We don't have the money to pay these contracts,” he said. “We are at the precipice of disaster.”

The major parts of Mr. Bell's budget balancing plan that council has to approve before they are implemented include raising the monthly trash fee to $15 to raise $10.5 million; eliminating the tax credit on residents who work and pay taxes outside the city to generate $8 million, and a new 8 percent events tax to generate $1 million.

Some councilmen last night chipped away at Mr. Bell's plans to generate money for the city.

Councilman George Sarantou offered an idea to charge a trash fee of $6 a month to those qualifying for a homestead exemption; $8 a month to those who recycle, and $15 a month for those who don't recycle. That would raise about $7.2 million, he said.

Mr. Collins offered an idea devised with Ms. Webb and Councilman Tom Waniewski to charge $10 a month for nonrecyclers and zero for recyclers — but the plan adds an additional $5 a month for two years to cover the cost of new trash containers delivered to Toledoans.

Neither plan had majority support from council last night.

Councilman Steven Steel wants to roll the events tax back to 5 percent, have it take effect on Sept. 15, after the Mud Hens regular season is over, and exempt 501(c)3 organizations that are religious, educational, and charitable. Ms. Webb also wants it to only affect businesses in Toledo's three entertainment districts: downtown, Uptown, and the Warehouse District.

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



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