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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Toledo budget balanced, but difficult work looms

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Finance Director Patrick McLean says the city has filed 1,495 cases against delinquent taxpayers since Jan. 1. Finance Director Patrick McLean says the city has filed 1,495 cases against delinquent taxpayers since Jan. 1.
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The nuts and bolts that hold together Toledo's newly approved 2010 budget include a lot of risky assumptions and still require City Council throughout the year to make some tough choices.

Among the biggest assumptions council approved 8-4 on Tuesday will be collecting $138.1 million this year from income taxes; making $5 million from selling city assets, and being able to fight off expected lawsuits to sustain the forced givebacks imposed on most city unions.

Council increased the expected income tax receipts by $2 million, which was done against the advice of Patrick McLean, Mayor Mike Bell's finance director.

That maneuver, which was offered by Councilman George Sarantou, saved council from having to make the equivalent in cutbacks or impose that much in higher fees or taxes. Councilman D. Michael Collins wanted to go even higher and assume $142 million.

"A budget is an estimate and the administration took the position that we were going to be extremely conservative," Deputy Mayor of Operations Steve Herwat said yesterday. "Frankly, I hope

Councilman Sarantou is correct. Frankly, I hope Councilman Collins is correct," Mr. Herwat said.

Five members of council - Mike Craig, Adam Martinez, Tom Waniewski, Michael Ashford, and Wilma Brown - voted against bumping up the estimate, but were outvoted by the other seven on council.

The assumption that the city will sell $5 million in city assets is part of the reason Councilman Joe McNamara joined three other councilmen and voted against the entire budget ordinance.

"What are the $5 million in assets?" Mr. McNamara asked. "We have more than $5 million in assets we could sell but all of those sales will need the agreement of council and that hasn't happened yet and there are things I would never sell."

The Bell administration expects $5 million alone by selling city-owned land in Monclova Township and has also identified properties such as The Docks, downtown parking garages, and land at the Marina District.

"I would never want to sell the water plant because I think the city having control of its own water is a good idea, but there are things I would sell like The Docks and land parcels we are not doing anything with," Mr. McNamara said.

Mr. Herwat said some of the properties are being marketed by real estate agents and others have interested parties.

He noted that the city could sell other assets besides property, including seized vehicles and even horses that were part of Toledo's now-disbanded mounted patrol.

Council President Wilma Brown yesterday said she is still confident the 2010 spending plan will hold water through Dec. 31, even though the night before she was against increasing the assumption for income taxes.

"I was pretty proud of most of the councilmen who voted for realistic things and didn't think about political consequences," Ms. Brown said.

After months of debate, a series of public hearings, and gathering input from city and regional officials, Mr. Bell devised a plan released on March 1 to balance the $48 million deficit his administration predicted for 2010. That figure includes a $8.45 million carryover deficit from last year.

The plan approved Tuesday by council includes all of the major components Mr. Bell offered but excludes an 8 percent entertainment tax to raise $1 million. It also cuts the tax credit for Toledoans working outside the city from 100 percent to 75 percent, instead of the zero percent the mayor originally proposed.

The total series of cutbacks, concessions, and new revenues approved Tuesday look like this:

•$11.12 million by increasing the city monthly refuse fee to $15 for the remainder of 2010.

•$2 million by cutting the tax credit from 100 percent to 75 percent.

•$4.03 million from collecting unpaid income taxes and accounts receivable. The city has so far filed 1,495 cases since Jan. 1 against delinquent taxpayers who owe Toledo $4.23 million, Mr. McLean said.

•$5 million from anticipated sale of city assets.

•$100,000 from increased motor vehicle accident billing.

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

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

The exigent circumstances approved by council call for unilateral cuts for all exempt employees as well as members of the Toledo Police Command Officers Association, Toledo Fire Chiefs Association, AFSCME Local 7, Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, and AFSCME 2058.

Those concessions and the other cutbacks and savings are as follows:

•$3.081 million from concessions approved by the Toledo Firefighters Local 92 membership after striking a deal with Mayor Bell.

•$442,290 from imposing exigent circumstances on nonunion city exempt employees.

•$80,288 from imposing exigent circumstances on AFSCME Local 2058.

•$902,052 from imposing exigent circumstances on Toledo Police Command Officers Association.

•$150,024 from imposing exigent circumstances on Toledo Fire Chiefs Association.

•$889,248 from imposing exigent circumstances on AFSCME Local 7.

•$2.68 million from imposing exigent circumstances on the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association.

•$1.3 million from attrition and delayed hiring.

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

•$250,000 from overtime reduction.

•$250,000 from reducing the police department budget.

•$350,000 from reducing the fire department budget.

•$8 million in spending from the budget submitted by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner by cutting funded but unfilled positions and slashing supplies.

•$598,500 by paying for ambulances from the capital improvement fund.

•$482,952 by adjusting the city's self-insurance pool.

•$158,064 in nonpersonnel cuts from the department of development.

•$1.061 million from switching the cost of the city recreation department from the general fund to other funds. About $870,000 will come from the Block Trust Fund, $125,000 will come from the city's Golf Course Fund. City Council created the Block Trust Fund in April, 1991, with $3.3 million in taxes from the estate of the late Paul Block, Jr., who was co-publisher of The Blade from 1942 to 1987.

The Bell administration plans to repay the money to the Block trust fund this year if income taxes exceed expectations or in the coming years with revenue expected from the new casino to be built in East Toledo, said Jen Sorgenfrei, Mr. Bell's spokesman.

•There will also be $65,531 in salary savings by paying the department manager with federal grant money.

•$1.5 million by reducing nonpersonnel expenditures. Mr. Waniewski pushed for that level of cuts Tuesday and left it up to the Bell administration to find the money within the city's voluminous budget.

The current spending plan now predicts a $487,534 surplus for 2010 and does not require any city layoffs, which the mayor previously had proposed for 125 firefighters and 125 police officers.

But that surplus is contingent upon council approving selling landfill space to private refuse haulers for $300,000.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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