Saturday, March 10, 2007

More struggles with Toledo's budget

Want to know why the City of Toledo yearly faces budget deficits? It's because of decisions like these:

"Part of the reason for the increased 2007 budget is to pay for a 2 percent city employee pay raise that took effect Jan. 1, and to pick up an additional 2.25-percentage point share of police officer and firefighter pension contributions.

In 2008, city employees are to get a 3 percent pay raise, and police and firefighters would get an additional 1.5 percent pension pickup."

This is from today's Blade article which relates the latest proposal to deal with our city's budget. And while I realize the economy is booming in just about every place BUT here, I have to question the logic of a 2007 4.25% and a 2008 4.5% pay increase for our police and firefighters. Now don't get me wrong, I don't know if you can really pay such individuals too much for the jobs they do, but in these difficult financial times?

The article's main point is Council President Rob Ludeman's proposal to have employees incur a payroll deduction of $25 each pay period to help pay for their insurance. He says that employees have "the Cadillac of benefits." And with taxpayers who foot the bill rarely enjoying the same level of benefits, especially in today's marketplace, he's right.

But the idea of a medical payroll deduction could be dead on arrival with the unions.

"Don Czerniak, president of the 870-member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7 union, rejected Mr. Ludeman's suggestion.

"My opinion is a flat-out no. I am not taking that to my members. I have helped in the past. As a thank-you for doing something, my members have suffered layoffs," he said."

I'm certain the Local 7 employees have tried to help in the past by making concessions, but my fear is that they would rather maintain a high level of wages and benefits for SOME of their members than keep ALL of them employed.

Beginning the discussions, however, would be good. But there's a twist. In exchange for the mayor beginning discussions with the unions to make this possible, Ludeman is willing to support a $4 trash fee, down $2 from the mayor's original proposal.

My preference would be that no 'revenue enhancements' (meaning taxes) would be up for discussion until every last unnecessary expense was eliminated. And if the four Republicans on council teamed up with Democrats Frank Szollosi (who's correctly said repeatedly that Toledoans are taxed too much), Michael Ashford (who says the 2007 budget contains 'pork') and Ellen Grachek (who has demonstrated a willingness to fund essential priorities first), perhaps we could actually have a budget in line with our ability to pay.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...


Of course you’re right as far as you can go. As I am not politically involved and never aspire to be so, I volunteer to take it further and say what you have left unsaid.

Hizzoner is a great cheerleader but a lousy manager and suffers from a multitude of other foibles.

Not only does he lack the requisite people skills, but he places his own personal agenda above that of the council’s, even though he agrees to their’s if only for appearance’s sake. His personal agenda and pet projects always come first.

What Toledo needs to do in order to really move forward is adopt professional management, directed by their unified leadership and willingness to focus on the big picture and on the long range solutions. The problem facing them/us is massive and it won’t go away in a year or two, it will take years to reverse; but, it can be reversed.

Yes, I’m talking about returning to the council/city manager form of government where knowledgeable, rational management works under the guidance of OUR elected council representatives instead of a head-strong, egotistical mayor with personal agendas…

Reasonable people on council can work out the logical priorities and stick to them, while loony “strong mayors” who think that they know better cannot.

The Charlatan has spent all of his goodwill with the unions, promised them the moon and has hoped beyond hope that he can finish his agenda before “the fit hits that shan.” In this case however, his time ran out first; The Charlatan miscalculated, but he did remind us why we abandoned the strong mayor form of government long ago, in favor of a more rational and stable form of government.

From what I’m hearing, yes the city employees should be paying a portion of their health benefits, like everybody else does. But their medical benefits were a trade-off in lieu of some raises and will have to be turned back by someone with the gravitas and credibility that, out strong (headed) mayor lacks. A relationship and mutual trust has to be developed by whomever is negotiating for the city and their word must mean something.

Once this trust is established, I’m confident that the doors of opportunity will open and the required discussions for change can begin.

Until then:
Hizzoner’s personal agenda must go away and his special/pet projects must be firmly rebuffed by the council so that everyone knows that a new way of doing business is dawning in Toledo, beginning with the removal of the managerial bloat that still remains.

Given the chance, the unions would willingly help council to streamline government by pointing out what works and where the bloat is. Their ranks are, in most cases, bare boned but the bureaucratic hierarchy above them is flush with targets…

Once the conditions are right, only then will the unions trust and be open to frank and productive talks. Right now the city has no credibility as long as The Charlatan is hiring retread, double-dipping spies, trying to hang everyone that they think they can.

Now, the “Ivory Tower/White Elephant” is also a source for fat cutting suggestions, especially for the budgetary fat, because those clerks and others in a position to see the pork know full well where the cutting can begin and point council to it.

Given the chance to make a difference, there are hundreds of average Joes/Janes, toiling in government who have been waiting for yeas to be heard and to contribute their ideas towards improving government and for making a difference. Given the chance, you may be surprised at what comes of it.

“We the Sheeple” want a chance to make a difference, not to just pick up government’s tab for their excesses at our expense. . .

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