Friday, January 04, 2013

Ask these important questions at the upcoming Toledo budget meetings

There are still three opportunities for you to hear about the City of Toledo 2013 budget, ask questions and provide feedback/instruction to your elected officials regarding how they spend your money.

The dates and times:

Monday, January 14th; 6-8 p.m.; Reynolds Corners branch library, 4833 Dorr St.

Tuesday, January 15th; 6-8 p.m.; Grace Community Church; 3700 Dorr St.

Monday, January 28th; 6-8 p.m.; West Toledo branch library; 1320 W. Sylvania Ave.

If you've not yet done so, you can view the proposed operating (General Fund) budget here.

There are some odd things in the 2013 budget and I realize that many of you are not familiar with the details of the city's general fund, so I've listed some questions you might want to consider asking:

* The city has transferred - or budgeted to transfer - $76 million out of the Capital Improvement Plan fun to cover yearly operating expenses. Included in that amount is the $12 million it budgeted to transfer in 2012 and the $13.96 million included as a transfer in the 2013 budget. When is the city going to 1) begin to live within its means and stop stealing from the CIP in order to pay for every day expenses and 2) replenish the funds it took that are desperately needed to cover essential infrastructure maintenance and improvements for roads, buildings and other such items? The fact that the city is still spending CIP monies on necessary and allowable items is no excuse or justification for continually raiding the fund and never replacing the money taken.

* If the city finds it necessary to borrow from the CIP in order to cover every day expenses, why is it INCREASING unnecessary spending by adding $175,000 to "support recreation activities"? Didn't the city understand that the voters already said no to additional recreation spending when they defeated the levy?

* Why do you keep calling it a balanced budget when it's clearly not balanced if you have to raid the CIP to make it so?

* Why did council and the mayor give pay raises totaling more than $300,000 a year if you're still raiding the CIP because you don't have enough income to cover your yearly expenses?

* The budget estimates a 3.4 percent increase in revenue from the income tax. The Economic Cycle Research Institute states that we began another recession in July 2012 and that "production, income and sales will keep trending down for now, and employment too is likely to turn down." So what plan exists and what provisions are in place if the estimated increase is not realized?

* Mayor Bell states, in his cover letter, that "Our citizens are clear that they want us to operate within the parameters of our existing resources." How are you living with those parameters if you are constantly balancing the budget by raiding the CIP fund?

* The budget estimates a 45% increase in revenue from Fines and Forfeitures ($2,180,795 more than the $4.8 million budgeted for 2012 and even more than the $4.7 million collected in 2011). Did you make the targeted $4.8 million in revenue in 2012 and what makes the city believe it will basically double its income in that line item?

* In 2012, the city budgeted $8.4 million in other income. That was 71% more than you actually collected in 2011. Did the city actually get $8.4 million in "other income" and why are you budgeting an additional $1.6 million (18% increase) in this line item?

* The Erie Street Market brought in $196,527 in 2011. The city budgeted $95,000 for 2012 and $30,000 for 2013. What was the actual revenue for the ESM in 2012 and why is it reasonable to assume $30,000 for 2013? Additionally, the ESM costs the city more than it brings in. It was estimated to cost us $137,250 in 2012 and it budgeted to cost us $80,523. What were the actual 2012 costs and why is there a 41% decrease in estimated costs for next year? Why are we still operating something that is estimated to cost us 168% more than it brings in?

* The city spent $8,208,169 in overtime in 2011 but only budgeted $5,184,111 for 2011 and has further reduced that amount to $4,920,698 for 2013. What were the actual overtime costs for 2012 and is it reasonable to expect a further reduction in the amount of overtime paid out? What if the overtime exceeds this amount? Where will the additional funds come from to cover the expense? (And if they were over budget in 2012, what makes anyone think they'll be able to be ON budget in 2013?)

* We eliminated the Youth Commission and survived quite nicely without it for several years. It was brought back in 2012 at a cost of $117,350 and now the city is planning to spend $160,015 in 2013. That's a 36% increase. Prior to its elimination it did things like Easter Egg hunts and rap concerts. These are not necessary functions of government. Why can't this department stay eliminated?

* Why is the mayor's office getting a 14% increase in its budget?

* Why is there a new item called Neighborhood Beautification Action and why is it getting $1,315,124 in the 2013 budget? What is this going to fund and where? How are the neighborhoods to be 'beautified' going to be determined? Who asked for this?

* Why is the city spending more money on Marina Development? It budgeted $144,568 for 2012 and has estimated $269,463 - an 86% increase - for 2013. Shouldn't the new property owners be paying for the development?

* The Information & Communications Technology line item shows $3,655,922 spent in 2010, $3,784,936 spent in 2011 and an estimated $4,856,694 for 2012. But for 2013, you're only budgeting $3,150,330. What accounts for the decrease in this line item to more than a half a million less than what you spent in 2010 and a 35% decrease over last year? Is it realistic to expect that this department will really reduce their expenditures by more than a third?

* What is covered under the category Utility Administrative Services and why is it getting a $4 million increase in its line item budget?

These questions should really get the discussion going.

If you attend one of the townhall meetings, be sure to take a camera and record it. They are public meetings and no one can prevent you from recording them. And if you get something really good, let me know and I'll help you get it publicized.

Council has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, January 29 at 1 p.m. to vote on the budget.

No comments:

Google Analytics Alternative