Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Toledo politicians just want 'more, more, more'

Mark Steyn recently wrote:

I see Andrea True died earlier this month. The late disco diva enjoyed a brief moment of global celebrity in 1976 with her ubiquitous glitterball favorite:

More More More
How do you like it?
How do you like it?
More More More
How do you like it?
How do you like it?

In honor of Andrea’s passing, I have asked my congressman to propose the adoption of this song as the U.S. national anthem. True, Miss True wrote the number as an autobiographical reflection on her days as a porn-movie actress but, consciously or not, it accurately distills the essence of American governmental philosophy in the early 21st century: excess even unto oblivion.

In case you weren't into disco, you can view the video here.

Apparently, Toledo is taking its cues from both Steyn and the federal government in always wanting more, as exhibited by the actions at last night's city council meeting.

Mayor Mike Bell asked city council to put the 3/4% payroll income tax renewal on the March ballot. The tax expires at the end of next year. But the kicker is that he wants to divert even more money from the Capital Improvement Plan budget (CIP) to the general fund.

Right now, the money from the 3/4% is split between the CIP, the general fund and police and fire. According to the most recent information I could find, the current allocation is:

* 1/3 for Police and Fire,
* 1/3 for the General Fund,
* 1/3 for Capital Improvements


Until 12/31/12, all or part of this 0.25% may be reallocated to the General Fund at the discretion of the Mayor and City Council.

And that's exactly what they've done - reducing the amount of money going into the CIP so that they can balance the general fund because they don't want to cut anything.

The mayor's proposal for the renewal of this temporary (since 1982) tax is to further reduce the amount that the CIP is getting to only 1/8 of the collected amount. The only good thing I can say about this proposal is that at least he's planning to put it to a vote.

Basically, the 3/4% isn't a temporary tax because it is relied upon for regular and continuing funding of the city operations. It does have to go before a vote of the people on a regular basis, but our local paper has advocated for making a permanent tax. Last night, District 2 Councilman D. Michael Collins jumped on that bandwagon and suggested the same thing.

The problem is that this tax is used for whatever the council/administration want, eliminating the need to actually keep city government within its fiscal means. If they want to spend more money here or there, they just change the allocation of this temporary tax - preferring to use the funds for today's wants while decimating the ability of the city to meet long-term needs through the CIP budget, as the state of our roads clearly attest.

As near as I can tell, over the past several years, they've diverted over $50 million from the CIP to cover every day expenses - primarily because they don't want to make the difficult choices that need to be made.

Routinely, Toledo council has passed budgets which they call balanced, but which, upon examination, show questionable estimates in both revenue and costs (for some examples you can read here, here, here and here).

And routinely, the result is that we end up with budget deficits at the end of year, as we have again this year with an estimated $7 million deficit.

As I wrote in 2009 - and still believe today:

If we keep raiding our capital budget, we won't have any money for structural items like roads, which are a major expenditure out of that fund.

Additionally, I'm tired of city council changing the allocation of this TEMPORARY addition to our payroll taxes. It was originally presented in 1982, the year I graduated from high school, as a temporary tax, but the city relies upon it as a permanent source of revenue. They've continued to spend as if they will always have this income - and the voters have continued to vote in favor of renewal because they're told doom and gloom will result if they don't.

Why did city council want to change the allocation in 2008? They wanted to put more money toward the CIP and they used that idea - and road improvements - as a reason for Toledoans to vote for it. Now, they've decided they want the money for their own pet projects in the General Fund, so they want to again raid the future (CIP) for the present (General Fund). Of course, the ever-present appeal to fear that they need the funds for police and fire, will be utilized.

Well, if they stopped funding all the non-mandatory items, perhaps they'd actually have the funds for the essentials - like police and fire. It's what we do with our own budgets but something government, and Toledo in particular, seems to not understand.

I mean, really, do we need to spend $150,000 on a study about a solar field on the landfill - or money for police and fire? That is the question council should be asking - but they don't. They spend money on such 'studies' while then telling the voters they've cut everywhere they possibly can and there just isn't any money left.

Yeah, right.

I wish the voters would tell council no on Issue 1. Not because I don't want more of those dollars allocated to police and fire, but because council needs to be sent a strong message that they can't just keep moving money around to suit their needs. This ballot measure robs Peter to pay Paul - and costs us more in the long-term than the temporary change will gain us for 2009.

This is still true - and with the mayor's latest proposal, it is continuing. The city's spending routinely exceeds revenue and, instead of reducing the spending, they just transfer money from the CIP, sacrificing our future so they don't have to risk political repercussions for making the decisions we elect them to make.

So the mayor is urging council to put this on the March 2012 ballot. If it doesn't pass then, he'll put it on the ballot in the summer and, if it still doesn't pass, he'll put it on the ballot in November. In effect, he'll keep asking until, like weary parents, the voters give in.

What I wrote in 2009 is even more relevant today as council - and Toledoans - consider the plan to renew the 3/4% payroll income tax which will continue to give council the ability to rob our future for the convenience of our present:

City Council and the Mayor need to learn to live within their means - actually, to live within OUR means - and to make better decisions, not play a constant shell game with our tax dollars.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Thank you, Maggie. I leave the room spent and tired. What stupidity! They just keep giving it to the tax payers. Someone needs to speak up. I might go Monday, join me.

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