Want to know why the City of Toledo yearly faces budget deficits? It's because of decisions like these:
"Part of the reason for the increased 2007 budget is to pay for a 2 percent city employee pay raise that took effect Jan. 1, and to pick up an additional 2.25-percentage point share of police officer and firefighter pension contributions.
In 2008, city employees are to get a 3 percent pay raise, and police and firefighters would get an additional 1.5 percent pension pickup."
This is from today's Blade article which relates the latest proposal to deal with our city's budget. And while I realize the economy is booming in just about every place BUT here, I have to question the logic of a 2007 4.25% and a 2008 4.5% pay increase for our police and firefighters. Now don't get me wrong, I don't know if you can really pay such individuals too much for the jobs they do, but in these difficult financial times?
The article's main point is Council President Rob Ludeman's proposal to have employees incur a payroll deduction of $25 each pay period to help pay for their insurance. He says that employees have "the Cadillac of benefits." And with taxpayers who foot the bill rarely enjoying the same level of benefits, especially in today's marketplace, he's right.
But the idea of a medical payroll deduction could be dead on arrival with the unions.
"Don Czerniak, president of the 870-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7 union, rejected Mr. Ludeman's suggestion.
"My opinion is a flat-out no. I am not taking that to my members. I have helped in the past. As a thank-you for doing something, my members have suffered layoffs," he said."
I'm certain the Local 7 employees have tried to help in the past by making concessions, but my fear is that they would rather maintain a high level of wages and benefits for SOME of their members than keep ALL of them employed.
Beginning the discussions, however, would be good. But there's a twist. In exchange for the mayor beginning discussions with the unions to make this possible, Ludeman is willing to support a $4 trash fee, down $2 from the mayor's original proposal.
My preference would be that no 'revenue enhancements' (meaning taxes) would be up for discussion until every last unnecessary expense was eliminated. And if the four Republicans on council teamed up with Democrats Frank Szollosi (who's correctly said repeatedly that Toledoans are taxed too much), Michael Ashford (who says the 2007 budget contains 'pork') and Ellen Grachek (who has demonstrated a willingness to fund essential priorities first), perhaps we could actually have a budget in line with our ability to pay.