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Published: Monday, 11/25/2013 - Updated: 7 months ago

CITY OF TOLEDO

Spending cuts needed to afford campaign vows

Collins must tweak budget that Bell made for next year

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
One of the first things mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said he plans to do within his administration’s first three months won’t cost a dime, but most of his goals come with price tags. It’s OK, the incoming mayor says, because the cost to fulfill campaign promises will be outpaced by spending cuts. One of the first things mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said he plans to do within his administration’s first three months won’t cost a dime, but most of his goals come with price tags. It’s OK, the incoming mayor says, because the cost to fulfill campaign promises will be outpaced by spending cuts.
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One of the first things mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said he plans to do within his administration’s first three months won’t cost a dime, but most of his goals come with price tags.

It’s OK, the incoming mayor says, because the cost to fulfill campaign promises will be outpaced by spending cuts.

Reviews of a proposed 2014 general fund budget written by the Bell administration and of Mr. Collins’ campaign promises show the new mayor will have to make major tweaks to the spending plan to remain true to his word.

“One of the things I plan to implement in the first 90 days is Tidy Towns,” Mr Collins said. “It will not cost anything, there will not be a director or money in it, and I am hoping as it progresses that we get some private partnership.”

The Tidy Towns program will be part of Block Watch and give neighborhoods, and the development corporations within them, more active roles in cleaning up blight — such as mowing lawns and cleaning up trash.

Other promises Mr. Collins made won’t come without costs, and the austere 2014 budget doesn’t have room for additional spending without cuts or more revenue.

Mayor Mike Bell’s proposed 2014 general-fund spending plan has only $20,000 predicted as a surplus. In it, Mayor Bell budgeted for 30 new police recruits to be hired in December, 2014, while Mr. Collins has promised to hire 40 police officers. There are no new firefighters in the Bell budget, yet Mr. Collins said he will hire 30 new paramedic firefighters every year of his four-year term.

The mayor-elect also promised to reopen the Northwest District police station within 90 days of taking office.

In 2011, maintenance for the building on Sylvania Avenue in West Toledo cost $26,357, electricity cost $10,601, and gas was $3,000. Under the same conditions, keeping it open from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2014, would cost nearly $30,000.

He also promised to hire 40 police officers each year to cover attrition and reach his goal of 575 officers. The additional 10 police officers’ salaries and benefits for a full year would cost about $750,000.

BY THE NUMBERS

Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins’ promises will affect the city’s budget in 2014. Some will cut spending while others will increase costs. His future plan to reduce Toledo’s 2.25 percent income tax would cut revenue.

■ Keeping the Northwest District police station from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2014: about $30,000.

■ Hiring 10 more police officers than budgeted in the already proposed 2014 budget: about $750,000.

■ Hiring four new code-enforcement inspectors: about $209,000.

■ Slashing 30 percent in personnel costs from the mayor’s office would save about $165,000 from the general fund in 2014.

■ Cutting 20 percent of the city’s executive exempt positions would save about $992,000 from the general fund in 2014.

Mr. Collins wants to hire 30 firefighters with paramedic training every year. Mayor Bell has advised Toledo City Council and Mr. Collins not to hire any in 2014, and he did not identify money to hire any next year. First-year salary and benefits for one recruit costs taxpayers about $75,000.

Multiplied by 30, that would cost the city about $2.25 million, but he may be off the hook for that.

“I might not have to hire firefighters next year,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Collins lambasted Mayor Bell during the campaign for not hiring more police and firefighters, even though his safety-forces hiring exceeds that of the previous two mayors combined. Now, Mr. Collins said he might not need to hire the 30 firefighters in 2014 because of recruits Mayor Bell hired this year.

“There is already a fire class with paramedic training right now who will complete training in the spring,” Mr. Collins said.

The city has 51 firefighter recruits in training.

Mr. Collins plans to hire four new code-enforcement inspectors. With salaries and benefits costing $52,280 for each, that would add about $209,120 to the budget.

Although it was not among his promises to authorize raises to any city unions, AFSCME Local 7, the city’s largest bargaining unit, has watched other unions get raises in recent years while its pay remained flat.

The union has a wage re-opener in January under its current contract, which expires completely on June 30, 2014.

“In terms of the wage re-opener and collective bargaining, we will have interest-based bargaining,” Mr. Collins said. “As opposed to being in adversarial positions, we will give them an honest accounting of where the finances of the city are, because they have always thought money was hidden somewhere but we will show them exactly what there is.”

Local 7 President Don Czerniak said the union’s members expect a raise in 2014.

“I believe we need to be treated fairly, especially Local 7. Everyone else got a raise except Local 7,” Mr. Czerniak said.

The proposed 2014 general fund budget is stressed by contractually obligated pay raises for the safety forces. Rank-and-file firefighters who belong to Toledo Firefighters Local 92 will get 3.5 percent raises in August; battalion chiefs get 3 percent increases in January, and police officers get 3 percent pay raises in July.

The 2014 proposed operating budget anticipates $7.4 million for salaries and benefits for Local 7 employees covered by the general fund. A 3 percent wage increase would increase that by $232,764.

Across all funds, the Local 7 work force will cost $57.47 million for salaries and benefits next year. A 3 percent increase would cost another $1.7 million.

Mr. Collins said the city’s management ranks are bloated and can be slashed.

He said 30 percent can be cut from in the mayor’s office, which would mean reducing the proposed $821,375 budget to $575,000.

Bob Reinbolt, director of Mr. Collins’ transition team, clarified that the cuts would be restricted to personnel.

“He will cut 30 percent of the mayor’s office staff,” Mr. Reinbolt said. “While it is predominantly salary-oriented, you cannot take the whole budget and make that same conclusion.”

Mr. Collins said the savings would be about $165,000.

Although he wants to cut the staff overall, Mr. Collins asked council last week to increase a salary cap for the city’s next director of business development — hiking it from $92,500 to $135,000.

Many members of council said they need to see his plan for overall cuts before considering the request.

“As it exists today, I am not supportive,” Councilman Tyrone Riley said. “It is a substantial increase and I need to see his budget first.”

Mr. Collins also plans to slash 20 percent of the city’s executive exempt positions — people who do not belong to unions. That would save about $992,000 from the general fund in 2014.

Cutting the water and sewer operating budget by 10 percent, another promise, would be separate from the general-fund budget. The proposed 2014 operating budget allocates $50.86 million to sewer operations and $10.25 million to water operations, which would have to be cut by $5.086 million and $1.025 million, respectively, to meet that promise.

During the campaign, Mayor Bell repeatedly said Mr. Collins’ promises were unattainable — especially a proposal to lower the city’s 2.25 percent income tax to 2.2 percent while making the whole tax permanent. That would reduce revenue in the general fund by about $3.6 million.

Now, Mayor Bell is silent about Mr. Collins’ goals.

“I will not make any negative statements about the new mayor,” he said. “I am being supportive.”

Mr. Collins said the income-tax reduction request would be put before voters in the future, not necessarily in 2014 or even 2015.

Some councilmen are skeptical. Adam Martinez, who supported Mayor Bell, said it cannot be done.

“I think Councilman Collins is going to have to make some hard decisions,” Mr. Martinez said. “Hopefully, he will be able to communicate to the unions our financial structure.”

Councilman Rob Ludeman said he is unsure how Mr. Collins will keep his promise to cut the income tax.

“Our economy is growing, but not enough to support the loss of part of the income tax,” Mr. Ludeman said.

The city is on track to finish 2013 with more income tax money than it collected in 2012, but it won’t meet budget. Income tax collections — the largest source of funding that pays for Toledo’s operations such as police and fire — were up slightly for the first 10 months of 2013 versus the same time last year.

The administration expected to collect about $163.9 million in 2013, but Clarence Coleman, the acting finance director, said revenue won’t reach that mark. As of Oct. 31, Toledo had collected nearly $114.63 million in income tax, about 1 percent over the first 10 months of last year.

Nonetheless, the proposed 2014 general fund budget predicts Toledo will collect $165.24 million from the 2.25 percent income tax.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com, 419-724-6171, or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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