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Like one of his predecessors, Mayor Mike Bell plans to dramatically increase funding for street repair in the final year of his first term in office – and that allocation for new roadways seems to be the most the city will ever spend in a single year.
In 2005, then Mayor Jack Ford pushed through a record $18.86 million for new streets in the same year he lost a tough campaign against Carty Finkbeiner. Mr. Ford's budget for streets was more than double the $6.7 million Toledo had spent in 2004.
Last week, Mr. Bell said the city would spend a new record amount on streets: $21 million from the city's own capital improvements program, which doesn't include $11 million expected from state and federal matching grants.
The mayor's proposed $21 million allocation for streets – which is up from $14.9 million this year and $6.8 million in 2010 – comes in the same budget cycle where he has proposed taking a whopping $13.96 million out of the capital improvements budget and shift it to the general fund for daily expenses. By comparison, the city took about $11 million this year from the capital improvements budget to keep the general fund in balance.
Council President Joe McNamara has urged the Bell administration to find a way to end the reliance on the capital improvements budget.
“We are borrowing more to do this paving and we are going to borrow more this year from the CIP,” Mr. McNamara said. “It's a shell game. It's not like it's completely bad because the streets need to be repaved and citizens do want that, but there is a political strategy on the part of the mayor, and I think the Ford comparison is a very good one.”
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said there was no political motivation in the budget process.
“We are spending $28 million in 2012 and in 2013, we are spending $32 million, and it is not like we hoarded our money to do a bunch of streets in 2013,” Mr. Herwat said.
Those figures include what is spent locally out of the capital imporvements budget plus what the city gets from state and federal matching grants.
“The thing we have really improved on is leveraging the state and federal grants,” Mr. Herwat said. “I remember the days the city would lose projects to other cities because it couldn't get its act together and now we have projects planned out to 2016, 2017.”
He pointed out that Mr. Bell's proposed 2013 general fund budget has a huge emphasis on public safety with money set aside to hire new police officers and firefighters.
“By the time we hire the class next year, Mayor Bell in his four years will have hired 169 firefighters,” Mr. Herwat said. “In the previous seven years before he took office, 15 firefighters were hired.
Mr. McNamara, a possible opponent to Mr. Bell in November, said those hirings are a product of the recovering economy.
“The mayor should take credit for things he actually controls,” he said. “The mayor of Toledo does not affect the national economy and did not cause the foreclosure crisis or influence the auto bail and the upswing we are seeing in the economy. He is hiring more more because we need more and if the economy had been better under Mayor Finkbeiner, he would have hired more police and firefighters too.”
Like others on council, Mr. McNamara declined to say what he would like to add to or remove from the 2013 spending plan, which council must approve by March 31, 2013.
Tom Waniewski, the self-proclaimed most conservative member of council, said he was pleased at the proposed budget.
“In my first blush, I like it,” he said. "It has a police class, the income collection projections are realistic, and this is the first time we can look forward to passing the thing rather than wrangling over some baloney.”
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 $238.98 million in revenues and the $238.9 million in spending in the 2012 budget.
Mr. Bell said the 2013 CIP budget when it is released in December, would also have money to renovate Fire Station No. 3 and build a new Fire Station No. 12.
City Finance Director Pat McLean estimated the city will collect $163.87 million from income taxes in 2013, up from the $158 million or $159 million expected to be collected by the end of 2012; the $153.5 million in 2011, and the $144.5 million in 2010.
Mr. McLean also said spending increases next year will comes chiefly from more expensive base salaries and wages — which increase 5.21 percent from $92.69 million to $97.53 million.
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.
The police and fire departments are the largest general fund expenses for Toledo taxpayes — taking 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 $78.34 million across all city funds. Fire will cost $61.7 million from the general fund, up from $60.4 million. Its total cost is $62.89 million.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.