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Published: Monday, 3/31/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Toledo City Council passes budget with 11-1 vote in special meeting

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council - apparently satisfied with Mayor D. Michael Collins' last minute tweaks to his first annual budget – approved the spending plan today during a special meeting.

Council voted 11-1 to approve the budget, which Mayor Collins largely inherited from the previous mayor and changed slightly. Councilman Theresa Gabriel voted no.

It was the first time since 2006 council took budget deliberations down to the wire – voting on the last day permitted by city charter.

Council last week pushed a vote back on the budget after Mayor Collins reported a $418,000 surplus in the proposed budget had been tapped out by unexpected expenses.

Council agreed 12-0 for an amendment offered by Councilman Rob Ludeman to put that $418,000 into the city's budget stabilization fund with the intent of letting the mayor use it to pay rent increases with council authority.

The proposed 2014 general-fund budget released Feb. 14 showed the $418,000 surplus. Councilman Jack Ford last week tried to dedicate $140,000 of that general fund money for homeless shelters while Councilmen Steven Steel and Lindsay Webb wanted to spend $20,000 on art murals. The mayor objected, saying surplus has been eroded by unexpected expenses, such as unpaid rent bills in One Government Center for the second half of 2013 and unpaid Lucas County Canine Care & Control 2013 overtime bills.

Mr. Ford’s budget amendment would have dedicated $5,000 to Toledo/Lucas County CareNet; $18,000 to Bethany House; $40,000 to Family House, and $77,000 as a reserve for homeless shelters throughout the coming fiscal year.

Mayor Collins announced that the Lucas County Commissioners had agreed to allocated $75,000 for city homeless shelters, although they have not voted to approve the money.

The city budget allocated up to $10,000 for Family House shelter for a new industrial stove.

Mr. Ford today withdrew his homeless shelter amendment. Ms. Webb also pulled her art mural funding request.

The mayor also said the general-fund surplus did not exist because the city has a “structural deficit.” For several years, the city has taken millions each year out of the capital-improvements budget to keep the general fund in the black. This year, the Collins administration proposed using $14.1 million from that fund — which pays for street repairs and other capital improvements. Mayor Collins said that essentially leaves a $13.6 million deficit.

The mayor’s claim last week about the deficit puzzled councilmen such as Steel, who pointed out correctly that his budget released Feb. 14 and an amended budget document dated March 25 showed the same amount designated for general fund expenses: $244,865,467.

Complicating the budget vote last week was an email sent by Joel Mazur, the mayor’s assistant chief of staff, to councilmen promising the city will open four city pools this summer, but neither the letter nor the latest budget document indicated the source of funding. The memo said Navarre, Pickford, Roosevelt, and Willys pools, and the splash pad at Savage park, will be open July 1 through middle to late August.

The mayor today offered to slash the police department salary and benefits by $266,199 to fund opening four pools and the splash pad at Savage Park this summer.

Council approved that plan 10-1. Councilman Tom Waniewski voted against and Mr. Ludeman abstained.

The mayor had originally released a spending plan with no money for pools.

The current funding idea is the third plan released after a majority of councilmen riled against keeping all pools closed.

The mayor first said he could keep Toledo’s public swimming pools open by using money from assets seized by police – including drug money. After deciding the city might not be allowed to use that money for anything other than law enforcement, the Collins administration decided to instead use that money for police uniforms — thus freeing up the clothing budget to pay for pools. That plan was scrapped Fridaywhen Mayor Collins released the plan to cut salaries and benefits.

Ms. Gabriel said she opposed taking capital improvement money to balance the budget.

She also said Mayor Collins’ estimate for 2014 income tax collections of $165.24 million is over-inflated.

Income tax estimates are based in part by projected job growth and unemployment data.

The mayor had suggested covering unexpected rent costs at One Government Center with savings from the Toledo Municipal Court Budget. The mayor identified $469,395 in non-departmental expenditures and $51,395 from holding a court reporter vacant. That amendment was dropped since council approved Mr. Ludeman's amendment.



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