Mayor Mike Bell on Monday released his proposed 2013 general fund budget — a spending plan that again forces the city to take millions out of the capital improvement budget to keep Toledo’s books balanced.
Spending across all of the city’s funds next year will total $609 million. The proposed general fund budget predicts $243.59 million in spending and an equal amount in revenues — up from the $238.98 million in revenues and the $238.9 million in spending in the 2012 budget.
Mayor Bell said the 2013 budget is a far better outlook than the city had when he first took office in January, 2010. At that point, he was considering police officer and firefighter layoffs along with deep cuts to other city services to keep the books balanced.
The mayor called it “almost a little bit of a miracle” that the city was able to maintain its services without raising taxes.
“The budget that we are presenting today presents a much more different picture,” he said. “Although it’s not glamorous, it does represent that Toledo is recovering on a steady path in this economic recovery mood that we are in.”
“We still, though, do face challenges,” he said. “Between 2011 and 2013 we’ll lose approximately $14.7 million from local government funds, which is normally provided from the state.”
The Bell administration said it will keep the city in the black by taking $13.96 million from the capital improvements budget, which is more than the $11 million it took from that fund this year. Even with the increased raiding of that fund, city officials plan to pave more streets than during any of the last three years.
The 2013 CIP budget, when it’s released in December, will have $32 million for more than 50 miles of streets to be repaved and reconstructed, with money left over to renovate Fire Station No. 3 and build a new Fire Station No. 12, the mayor said.
“The greatest debate we have now isn’t whether we will be adding police and fire, but where will we be putting the fire station,” he said.
“I can tell you that three years ago, the issue would have been can we even afford to have the firefighters in the station.”
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the city will be able to pave more streets because the engineering services division has been aggressively pursuing federal and state grants for street repair.
City Finance Director Patrick McLean predicted 3.4 percent growth in the city’s income tax. The city’s 2.25 percent income tax, which is linked to employment, is the largest source of revenue for the city.
Mr. McLean estimated the city will collect $163.87 million from incomes taxes in 2013, up from the $158 million or $159 million expected to be collected by the end of 2012.
Other revenues the city plans to collect next year include $10.8 million from property taxes; $20.45 million from “charges for services”; $6 million from licenses and permits; $7 million from fines and forfeitures, and $27.16 million from all other revenues, which includes operating transfers, sales of assets, and casino revenue.
“The spending priorities are very clear to us this year,” he said. “First of all, public safety. In this budget there are dollars for a police class as well as a fire class and as we examine our revenues early in the new year and with the close out of 2012, we will make some determinations early in the year whether or not we can even add to the size of that police class.”
Mr. McLean said the increases in spending next year comes chiefly from more expensive base salaries and wages — which increases from $92.69 million to $97.53 million. That is a 5.21 percent increase.
There is also a 9.12 percent increase in employment taxes and medical costs for the city from $23.76 million to more than $25.9 million next year.
Council President Joe McNamara said the budget was as he expected.
“It does not appear there are any surprises, in that we were expecting it to be balanced through borrowing both from the bond market and internally from the CIP budget to pay for operations,” Mr. McNamara said.
The proposed budget also:
• Increases the mayor’s office budget from $728,240 to $827,449 spent out of the general fund.
• Cuts the budget for city council and city auditor from $1.445 million to $1.426 million.
• Adds $210,000 to the city’s rainy day fund. That fund currently has $326,000, which is less than a day’s worth of general fund operating expenditures at the end of 2011.
Mr. Bell said the 2013 proposed budget continues a commitment to public safety with additional police and fire classes.
The police and fire departments are the largest expenses for Toledo taxpayers — swallowing up 67.29 percent of the general fund. Police will cost $75.3 million from the general fund, up from $73.6 million last year. The police department will cost a total of $78.34 million across all city funds.
Fire will cost $61.7 million from the general fund, up from $60.4 million last year. Its total cost is $62.89 million.
The police department currently has a class in the academy and will offer a police officer civil service exam on Dec. 1. The exam will give the city a new list of candidates, at least 45 of whom will be selected to begin training in 2013. The fire department begins training 30 new recruits on Dec. 3 who will to begin working in 2013. The 2013 police and fire classes will not begin until current classes have completed their academy training.
The Toledo Municipal Court will also cost taxpayers more in 2013 — $14.1 million, up from $13.55 million last year.
The cost for public utilities is up while the public services department is cut.
Public utilities increases from $151.9 million this year to $158.1 million in 2013 and public services is down to $66.8 million in 2013 from $67.3 million this year.
Mr. Bell on Monday highlighted a relatively small line item in his proposed budget for recreation.
“The administration also maintained a commitment to quality of life issues affecting residents. Despite the rejection of a levy to support parks and recreation, the city will allocate approximately $175,000 more in the 2013 budget to support recreation activities for Toledo residents,” said a statement that accompanied the 208-page general fund budget book.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.