Friday, July 27, 2007

What's all the fuss about?...what the charter really says about a balanced budget

Toledo city council and the mayor are going back and forth about whether or not the mayor has to submit a balanced budget to city council in November. The political dispute over this issue between A-Team and B-Team democrats, the alliance of the republicans with the B-Team mayor and all the press conferences about the claimed 'retaliatory' actions as a result are saturating the airwaves.

Some councilmen (vote of 8-4) decided to place an amendment to the city charter on the ballot...the amendment would add the word 'balanced' to the provision for the mayor's budget submission to council in November of each year. On the surface, that appears to be a logical change in our city charter.

But if you read the actual language of the charter, you'll find the following:

Section 45. Mayor's Budget Estimate.
The fiscal year of the City shall begin on the first day of January. On or before the fifteenth day of November of each year, the Mayor shall prepare a budget estimate of the expense of conducting the affairs of the City for the following fiscal year. The estimate shall be compiled from detailed information obtained from the various departments on uniform blanks prepared by the Director of Finance, and shall set forth:

(a) An itemized estimate of the expense of conducting each department.

(b) Comparisons of such estimates with the corresponding items of expenditure for the last two complete fiscal years, and with the expenses of the current fiscal year, plus an estimate of expenditures necessary to complete the current fiscal year.

(c) Reasons for proposed increases or decreases in such items of expenditures compared with the current fiscal year.

(d) A separate schedule of each department showing the things necessary for the department to do during the ensuing year, and things desirable to do if funds permit.

(e) Items of payroll increases as either additional pay to present employees or pay for more employees.

(f) An estimate of the anticipated income of the City from taxation and other sources to meet current expenses for the fiscal year.

(g) A statement of the amounts to be appropriated: For interest on the City debt. For paying off any serial bonds maturing during the year. For the aggregate for the year of the installments required to be appropriated annually during the life of all other bonds of the City in order to pay off such bonds at maturity.

(h) The total amount of outstanding gross and net debt of the City, classified as to limits on such indebtedness, with a schedule of maturities of outstanding general bonds classified to show those for which debt service levies are made inside and outside the limits on the tax rate.

(i) Such other information as may be required by Council.

The total items of current expense in the budget and appropriation ordinance shall not exceed the amount available for such purpose as provided by law. The Mayor shall submit the estimates thus prepared to the Council and at least five hundred (500) copies thereof shall be printed for distribution to citizens who may call for them and the substance thereof shall be printed in the City Journal.

(Amended by electors 11-3-92)


Two key points: 1) "the total items of current expense...shall not exceed the amount available" means balanced. I know that it doesn't use the word 'balanced,' but the meaning is clear. 2) "Such other information as may be required by Council" means that council already has the authority to require that the mayor identify ideas and suggestions for obtaining a balanced budget.

So, since it appears the charter already requires a balanced budget and it appears that council already has the authority to make other requirements of the mayor in order to develop a balanced budget, what's all the fuss about?

It's all about political posturing. The idea of adding a word to the charter sure does sound simple - and it's such common-sense message. I mean, who wouldn't want to make sure that the charter requires a 'balanced' budget. But it's all smoke and mirrors, because the word isn't needed if the other provisions in the charter already require the budget submission to be balanced.

And the time and attention spent on this issue so far have certainly resulted in a significant amount of publicity for a lot of people...but if council had really wanted to handle the budgetary process differently, they ALREADY have the authority to require items or other things from the administration - and they could have done so without amending the charter.

Following council's vote, the mayor suggested that the number of council members be reduced from 12 to 8.

So the issue has gone from a balanced budget, to a reduction in the number of councilmen, to a reduction in the mayor's salary, to a charge of violating the charter by mentioning candidates during a council meeting, to a legal review...to who knows where it will end up?

This is not to say that such issues as number of council members and mayor salary are not substantive nor deserving of discussion and consideration. However, the main purpose of raising these issues is strictly to use them as a political ploy. They're just the topic de jour in the never-ending battle for power and control of the city.

In the meantime, FedEx is probably going to move to Wood County - if they actually stay in the state, population is continuing to decline, and taxes are continuing to rise. At what point will these warring political factions abandon their petty bids for control and actually focus on the job they were elected to do?

Of course, that would require them to understand they weren't elected to 'control' but, rather, to serve.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...

"At what point will these warring political factions abandon their petty bids for control and actually focus on the job they were elected to do?

Of course, that would require them to understand they weren't elected to 'control' but, rather, to serve.'


Right on Maggie!

You and I both know that "his dishonor" won't be satisfied until he gets and serves a FOURTH term as mayor, and he will do ANYTHING to get it.

This balanced budget ploy is all about perception and blame.

Clearly "his dishonor" was in violation of the City Charter when he presented City Council with a deficit budget for 2007 and he knows that he can't do it again, even if the amendment fails, because the next time, the BLAME will be on him if he tries the same stunt again.

He would have rather saddled the Council with the responsibility and blame, than to wear that "honor" around his own neck.

You can also add "shrewd" to the list of the mayor's attributes, and stupid to the attributes of the voters, until they disprove it by their informed and thoughtful votes.

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