I do not envy Mayor Mike Bell and the limited options he has to address this year's nearly $50 million budget deficit.
Part of the problem is that he had only three months in which to find solutions. While cutting spending and reducing the size of government is clearly the best choice in both the short and long term, last year's decision by council and then mayor Carty Finkbeiner put Bell in a tough spot with union contracts, leaving a rock and a hard place as choices.
The bigger problem we have is that Toledo City Council, as a body, did nothing.
Well, that's not exactly correct. They continued 'business as usual' when it came to union contracts, wages, benefits and pensions, hoping that a six-month moratorium on some of those items would buy them time.
And it bought the time: six months.
Now the situation is even worse because they've failed, over a period of years, to make the decisions necessary to address the declining revenue and skyrocketing costs.
Throughout the last several years, I've paid particularly close attention to the revenue projections and have made numerous posts here about how they cannot possibly be obtained. It comes as no surprise to me, those of you who read this blog and most ordinary citizens, that the practice of inflating revenue to justify spending is a significant problem - that Toledo politicians have known about, and embraced.
Even this year, we have some who are saying that Bell's revenue projections are too low. Can you say 'stuck on stupid'????
Better that they be too low than too high, resulting in further deficits!
Members of city council are now faced with having to produce a balanced budget by tomorrow, or the city faces dire circumstances, including the inability to expend money. Temporary spending authorizations cannot continue to be made like they are in January, February and March.
So what will council do? The cowardly thing - though they'll try to spin it as courageous.
They are going to increase taxes.
They will not make the hard choices of cutting non-mandated services. They will not repeal ordinances they've previously passed in order to eliminate boards and commissions that suck up tax dollars. They will not examine the operations of government and eliminate duplicate functions/tasks (not that they could in the two days left). They will not prioritize safety and basic services and eliminate lower priorities. They will not challenge the unions.
They will tell us they did the only they could do continue that elusive 'quality of life' they're constantly telling about. Of course, that assumes that they can define each of our 'quality of life' criteria - or that they know what adds to our quality of life better than we do. How typical of elitist statists on our council.
My 'quality of life' is certainly enhanced when I have more money in my pocket. In fact, that's the best thing I could ever hope for to enhance my quality of life. That point is too often missed or ignored by city council.
They will tell us they've made a difficult choice in raising taxes. And they might see it that way because they will (hopefully!) suffer the consequences of that decision and that could mean loss of office. (Though this is Toledo, so while that should be a given in most communities, it's not here.)
Just remember this: Whenever government raises taxes, fees, or increases its income (in whatever form), the politicians are telling you that they need your money more than you do. They are telling you that their special projects and priorities are more important that yours - including your mortgage or rent, your utilities, your food, your retirement, your children's college funds, your home improvements - everything!
And as a result of their actions, you will go with less while they brag about 'saving' city services.
Every one of them who votes for any increase in taxation - in any form - deserves to be thrown from office.
Does Toledo have the political will to do so remains an unanswered question. But I can hope. Because only by changing the philosophy of those on council will Toledo ever get out of the mess we're in.
And that goes for all of council, regardless of the political affiliation they claim.