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Published: Friday, 7/1/2011

Toledo economy rebounding

Latest numbers show spur from tax collections, stocks

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
City Finance Director Patrick McLean says 2011 tax collections have raised $6.39 million more than this time last year. City Finance Director Patrick McLean says 2011 tax collections have raised $6.39 million more than this time last year.
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Income tax collections for Toledo increased again compared to 2010 figures -- indicating the city's economy continues to rebound -- but at the same time, the city's spending is over-budget and a recently formed task force to hit back on crime is expected to take a big hit on the city's wallet.

In one of the best signs yet that Toledo's economy is rebounding, the Bell administration announced Thursday that income tax collections through May 31 had increased more than 13 percent over the same period last year.

City Finance Director Patrick McLean told Toledo City Council's finance committee the improving economy, and a single large payment related to stock options had netted the increase. Even without the stock option, the income tax figure would have been up more than 9.5 percent over the first five months of 2011.

The city collected $55.47 million from the income tax, which is $6.39 million more than the same time last year. The withholding, business, and individual categories were all up in the current report.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of the committee, said income tax in the report was encouraging but cautioned the administration to keep spending under control.

"I have not seen in many, many years, all positives of the [income tax] categories," Mr. Sarantou said.

Mr. McLean said he did see a comparison of Toledo's financial health compared to other large Ohio cities.

"Toledo seems to be leading the recovery in some ways, at least where income tax is concerned," he said.

But Mr. McLean also warned that total general fund expenses could go over budget by up to $3 million if the city continues its current pace of spending. The year's general fund expenses are budgeted to be $228.39 million. The city had spent $101.7 million through May 31, according to Thursday's report.

The spending is expected to be increased by the police task force, set up last month.

After eight shootings in a single weekend last month, Toledo police issued a department-wide notice requesting that officers join a new task force aimed at getting guns off the streets. The task force will focus on spending time in the city's toughest neighborhoods during the hours of peak criminal activity -- typically in the late-night or early-morning hours.

Councilman Joe McNamara Thursday questioned if the Bell administration had determined the potential cost for the operation.

Mr. McLean said the amount of overtime needed for the task force and the cost is still being estimated.

"It will not be insignificant," the finance director said. "It will not be in the seven-figure mark but yes, it will be six figures."

Councilman D. Michael Collins, a former police officer, pointed out that through the end of May, the police department was within its budget for overtime -- having spent $1.19 million of the budgeted $2.93 million.

"We cannot have people sitting in their homes petrified," Mr. Collins said.

The fire department is budgeted to spend $3.45 million on overtime through the end of 2011 but had already spent 96 percent of that, or $3.33 million, by May 31.

"The month of June without question has driven them over-budget," Mr. Collins said.

Also Thursday, the Bell administration released an updated list of proposed street repaving projects to be done this year. The new list addresses several projects for Council District 2 in South Toledo, which is represented by Mr. Collins.

He objected to the list released last month because District 2 would only have a $320,000 project on Heatherdowns Boulevard from Reynolds Road to Eastgate Road. The new list adds another $854,700 in projects to the council district.

They include Ryan Road from Cass Road to Eastgate; Ryewyck Drive from Heatherdowns to Plumleaf Lane; Staghorn Drive from Heatherdowns to Ryewyck, and Heatherwyck Court and Plumleaf from Heatherdowns to the dead end.

Part of Mayor Mike Bell's strategy to balance the 2011 general fund budget -- which is used to pay operational costs such as police and fire salaries -- included transferring $6,775,000 from the capital improvements fund into the general fund. The Bell administration previously said it did not plan to do residential street repaving this year because of the transfer.

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



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