Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More questions on Toledo's 2008 budget

The following questions are based upon the assumptions presented by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner as part of his 2008 budget submission to Toledo City Council. (budget and assumptions are available through the link at the left)

I've sent these questions to Finance Director John Sherbourne, and also posted them on my Eye On Toledo blog. When (or if) I get answers, I'll share them with you. Additionally, as there are budget hearings tonight and Thursday, please feel free to ask any or all of these questions during those meetings.

Questions to Finance Director John Sherburne:

1. How much was the carryover from 2007?

2. Income taxes are estimated at 2.5% over total 2007 collections. How much income tax was collected in January and February and is that 2.5% over last January and February? If it's not 2.5% more than last year, how are you adjusting your revenue projections?

3. You've doubled the number of speed cameras but the projected revenue from all those cameras is 6 times more than in 2007. Why isn't the revenue projection just double?

4. You say you're going to do monthly air traffic monitoring and that is projected to bring in an additional $312,000. How much does the air monitoring cost and have you done this in January, February and March? If not, don't you need to adjust your revenue projection as it was based upon 12 months of monitoring?

5. You've estimated 1% increases in many miscellaneous line item accounts. However, some of those line items are fees. Projected increases include: $20 for arcades, $40 for bowling alleys, $2.40 for car trailer rental, $3 for dance studios, $8 for laundry mats, $6 for miniature golf, $2 for temporary stores and $10.65 for theaters.

Now, you're not projecting any new stores to account for these increased fee collections and you haven't raised the fees for these places. While each of these is small, when you add up all these types of things in the budget, the impact is significant. How will you achieve these revenue projections?

6. The budget assumes a full pension pickup of 8.5% - is that for all employees? Don't some elected officials and management staff pay their own pension pickups? And if some people pay their own portion of the pension, does that mean you've over-budgeted your pension line item?

7. You've got debt for hotels at $975,000 - almost a million dollars. Why is the city paying debt on hotels and why don't we just sell them so we no longer have this expense on our books?

8. Why don't you issue an RFP for both garbage pickup and demolition to see if outside contractors could provide the service for less than the $12.5 million that is budgeted?

9. Are you still planning on both police and fire classes in 2008? If you don't do a class, how much would the budget be reduced? (I'm not saying don't do the classes, I just want to know the costs.)

10. The budget calls for closing two pools, but Lindsay Webb has presented an ordinance to open 7 aquatic centers. Is the entire additional cost of Lindsay's proposal over what is budgeted paid for by spending the earned interest from the Parks Trust Fund? If we're going to spend the interest off the Parks Trust Fund, could we not pay for some of the maintenance of the parks with that money and then reduce the general fund?

11. Municipal Garage costs are projected to go up 7.4% - the majority of those costs are paid for by the various city departments with general fund monies. Why are you not looking at issuing an RFP to see of one or several of our local businesses could perform some of that work for less money - especially since that was what was suggested in at least 2 studies the city of Toledo paid for?

12. The solid waste budget is based upon all temporary employees being eliminated as of January 1. Were they eliminated and, if not, how much will failure to eliminate those positions cost us?

13. Negotiations are still continuing about criminal justice budgets, but the projections call for saving $2 million by citing booked individuals under the ORC instead of TMC. Have you already started doing that and, if not, how much would your savings be reduced by continuing to cite under TMC for the first quarter of the year. If you have already started, how much has actually been saved in the first quarter of the year and is a savings of $2 million realistic based upon the results of the first quarter?

14. This same situation also applies to Pre-Trial services and Pre-Trial detention. You estimated making changes in how these are done as of Jan. 1 and saving a total of $1.4 million. Did you make these changes at the first of the year and, if not, how much have you adjusted the budget?

15. Many times agreements are reached and then presented as a whole to city council when the budget is actually voted upon. How can citizens get the information as to some of these agreed-upon budget changes PRIOR to the actual budget vote so we have time to review them and comment upon them?

7 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

16. What are the chances that any of these questions will receive answers before the budget is passed?

Maggie Thurber said...

Several WSPD listeners have copied me on email to Mr. Sherburne and those indicate a relatively timely response.

My hope is that he answers the questions within about 24 hours. After all - he should already know the answers to most, if not all, the questions.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

All very good questions, but, by bringing them to light in your blog, what would you estimate the chances that Finance Director John Sherbourne has a sudden (undisclosed) family emergency/crisis that he might have to attend to, instead of showing up at tonight's meeting?

BTW, on Item #6, the member's of Local 2058 are still paying part of their own pension contributions and would continue to do so until at least the next contract negotiations.

I think that everyone else though has achieved the full City pickup already though...

At least, that's what I've been told.

;-)

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

I'd hazard a guess at more of these questions except that I'm pretty sure that you already know the answers; you always seem to anyway...

Like any good lawyer would, you don't ask questions that you don't already know the answers to, do you?

(Don't answer that..)

I chimed in on #6 because I researched it myself and knew the answer too!

:-)

Maggie Thurber said...

Hooda - according to the Toledo Municipal Code, 2105.87:

(l) Effective the first full pay period of January, 2008 the City will pay an additional three quarter percent (0.75%) of each individual employee's pension contribution in lieu of employee paying same. With this increase the city portion is eight and one half percent (8.5%) of the employee contribution. (emphasis added)

Since the total employee portion is 8.5% and as of the first of this year the city's portion is 8.5%, it appears that all of the employee portion of PERS for AFSCME Local 2058 is paid for by the taxpayers.

Black Swamp Road Geek said...

How about sell the parking gargages period.

Selling the parking gargages for one dollar would lead to the $14million dollar cash balance going to the general fund. Anything else would be gravy

Maggie Thurber said...

good point, BSRG ... there are lots of properties the city could sell and then get out under the debt/maintenance of these facilities. BTW - anyone know what happened to their offer to sell The Docks? They got two bids on that quite some time ago.

And my preference for the funds from the sale of such property would be that it go directly into the Capital Improvement Fund - maybe for road improvements. To rely upon one-time income for general fund expenses only sets us up for expenditures that are above and beyond our ability to pay for them.

Google Analytics Alternative