A majority of Toledo City Council voted today to put a 1-mill levy request on the November ballot to fund park facilities and recreation programs, but the dozen councilmen spent several fruitless hours trying to agree on a plan for allocating federal Community Development Block Grant funds.
The levy was approved by a 9-3 vote. The three Republican councilmen, George Sarantou, Tom Waniewski, and Rob Ludeman, voted against putting the issue before voters.
The eight Democrats and one independent voted in favor.
Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Steven Steel, both Democrats, emphasized the need for a dedicated source of funding for the city’s recreation budget, which has experienced a steady decline in recent years. “For me, I see this as a quality of life issue,” Ms. Webb said in advocating for a passing vote. “Give the people the opportunity to decide their fate as it relates to their parks.”
She said a dedicated funding stream would help stabilize the city’s recreation budget, which goes to recreation programming and maintaining the recreational facilities.
Mr. Sarantou predicted it would be voted down. “People want the basics taken care of first,” he said. “I think people will turn this down. What they want is police, fire, and they want those streets fixed.”
Levied over 10 years, the tax would cost the owner of a $60,000 home $18 per year, and it would raise about $3 million annually.
Although there was some debate over the levy proposal, today’s three-hour council meeting was dominated with a lengthy debate over appropriating more than $6.8 million in block-grant funding.
In all, council considered, voted on, and rejected seven proposals, including the original from the Bell administration and then proposals from councilmen Paula Hicks-Hudson, D. Michael Collins, Joe McNamara, Mr. Waniewski, and Mr. Sarantou.
The city’s Department of Neighborhoods recommended in April cutting all block-grant funds to several shelters and transitional housing agencies, including the Aurora Project, Beach House, Bethany House, La Posada, Harbor House, and Family House in the fiscal year that began July 1. In past years the money has been a source of tens of thousands of dollars for those service providers.
Several competing proposals that would restore some funds to the shelters were on the table. The ideas were debated last month at a neighborhoods committee meeting but none of the proposals appeared to emerge as a front-runner.
Mr. Sarantou came into council with a last-minute proposal that had the most support by the end of the meeting, but still failed.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson suggested a 3 percent across-the-board reduction for all agencies receiving CDBG funds. Mr. Collins suggested cutting block-grant funds by 10 percent to other agencies to restore money to the shelters. Mr. McNamara, the council president, suggested taking $103,797 from a contingency fund in the city’s capital improvement program to help shelters restore half of the funding that was lost, without taking CDBG funds proposed for other agencies.
After the meeting, Mayor Mike Bell said none of the ideas was acceptable, but noted that Mr. McNamara’s proposal came closest.
Mr. Sarantou’s amendment also proposed a 3 percent cut across the board with a $104,000 re-allocation to the city’s department of development to fund development programs. It would not have taken money from the general fund or capital improvement fund, he said.
Mr. Collins, council’s lone independent, also offered a second proposal, but it too failed.
The mayor said a new “hybrid” proposal would be sent to council Friday for them to consider at its next regular meeting in two weeks.
In other business council unanimously approved new rules requiring owners and operators of pedicabs, also referred to as bicycle taxis, to apply for permits, obtain $1 million liability insurance, and add safety features such as headlights and taillights to the pedicabs. Council unanimously approved a proposal that mandates all sexually oriented businesses in the city to display posters printed with a toll-free hot line number that victims of sex trafficking can call.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.
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