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Published: Monday, 11/15/2010

Answers on Toledo budget balancing due Monday; '11 proposal expected to include more cuts

Revenues will be down and expenses will be up.

That's the bottom line for the city of Toledo's budget, which is to be released from the administration by Monday.

Nevertheless, it will be balanced, officials within the Bell administration have promised. But the city's councilmen, union leaders, employees, and residents are wondering where cuts will be and how much blood will have to be mopped up.

One estimate from September showed a possible $16 million gap between revenues such as the income tax, compared with expenses, including salaries, during 2011.

"They haven't given me any details but I do know they are planing a press conference around 3 p.m. Monday, so I don't have any solid information until then," said Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee. "I expect a tight budget; I expect significant reductions in several departments, and I am curious what the income tax revenue projections will be."

City Finance Director Patrick McLean and other city officials worked through the weekend to complete the proposed 2011 spending plan.

Mayor Mike Bell took office in January and reworked a budget submitted by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

That budget slashed $48 million, mostly because of a steep drop in revenue, including that from the city's 2.25 percent income tax.

The 2011 budget is not expected to be as severe, but there will again be cuts, Mr. Sarantou said.

When City Council approved its 2010 spending plan on March 30, it estimated income taxes would generate $138.1 million. The city expects an additional $3.23 million from delinquent collections. Mr. McLean last month said income tax collections for 2011 could surpass this year's estimate, but he warned that decreases in other sources of revenue for the city would drag down total revenue.

He predicted the city could collect $144.95 million in income tax in 2011.

However, Toledo's share of property taxes could drop $400,000 to $13.9 million, estate taxes could be down by $1 million to $3 million, and state revenue sharing could be down $3.8 million next year to $11.5 million.

Mr. McLean said he directed all city department heads to write a 2011 spending plan that stops at 90 percent of this year's budget.

The city next year will also face higher labor costs from union agreements that helped the city balance the 2009 and 2010 budgets but will cost more next year. Labor agreements for Toledo's public safety units and AFSCME work force will cost an additional $5.2 million in wages and benefits over the amount in the 2010 budget. Police and firefighters will get a 3.5 percent wage increase in 2011 and AFSCME units get a 1 percent increase beginning in January.

Also, Firefighters Local 92, the Fire Chiefs, and the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association agreed this year to defer overtime payments due in 2010 to 2011.

Those deferrals will cost an additional $4.52 million next year, according to city estimates.

Councilman Michael Ashford said he is more concerned presently about how the Bell administration will close the 2010 budget.

"The 2011 budget is not a real major concern because you can always redirect dollars and we have plenty of time until the new council next year votes on March 31," Mr. Ashford said. "I think the concern should be how they are going to end up in 2010 and if there will be any looming deficit."

Included in the 2010 budget is an assumption that the city would make $5 million from selling properties. As of last month, the city had sold about $1.5 million worth.

Councilman Tom Waniewski said he is concerned the 2011 budget could be balanced with inflated revenue assumptions.

"We better not be raising fees on anybody and the estimations better be reasonable," Mr. Waniewski said. "I have been trying to convey that there are different ways we can fund basic services."

Don Czerniak, president of AFSCME Local 7, said he suspects the Bell administration will ask for a tax increase in 2011.

"My gut feeling is the administration is going to go for some type of property tax and leave it up to the people if they want to pay for extra for police and fire," Mr. Czerniak said. "Or they could ask for a payroll tax increase."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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