Yesterday, the city's finance director informed council members that they need to come up with $8 million to close out the 2008 budget. Oh - and there's only $6 million in the budget stabilization (rainy day) fund.
The biggest question I have now is this: how in the world didn't the city know three weeks ago that they were this much in the hole????
How could the finance director and administration not realize or understand that the deficit for 2008 was going to be this high? As late as this past Wednesday, just two days ago, Bob Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the rainy day fund would be gone in 2009 because of lower than expected revenues.
"Although the mayor said in November that the city would not tap into the rainy-day fund to close out 2008 and balance last year's operating budget, that is now the plan, Mr. Reinbolt said.
"I imagine between the 2008 and 2009 budgets, I am confident there will be nothing left," Mr. Reinbolt said."
Really? between 2008 and 2009 budgets? And then, one day later (24 hours!), the finance director is saying there isn't enough in the fund to even close out 2008? Either Reinbolt didn't have a clue or he was purposefully not being as forthcoming as he should have been.
Don't forget, city council already transferred $8 million in funds from the Capital Improvements budgets and other accounts to cover the hole. And now they need to come up with $8 million more? So our total overspending in 2008 was $16 million??? And that's not even the final figure since December's numbers aren't yet finalized.
Maybe it's time for more severe cuts. Start with the city charter and fund only what's mandated. Take a look at the Toledo Municipal Code that 'requires' (only because council has passed an ordinance) certain boards and commissions and then repeal the ordinances to eliminate them. Eliminate the funding for various projects like pools and solar fields. Eliminate the youth commission and recreation departments. Stop purchasing flowers - especially annuals - and bike paths when roads should be a priority.
Accept the challenge issued by AFSCME Local 2058 president Alan Cox to reduce the Mayor's Office staff back to 1993 levels. That would eliminate 22 positions that have been created solely because of a change to a strong-mayor form of government. Cox raised a good question when he asked why a strong mayor needs 22 more staff to run the city than the city manager needed.
Renegotiate union contracts and insist on payroll deductions and copays for medical insurance that are at the same level as the local private sector. Offer continued employment as the incentive - that's what the private sector who pays for these things has had to do. Require that all workers actually work 8 hours (including our trash collectors). Many areas of government report at 8:30 a.m. and leave at 4:30 p.m. but still get lunches and breaks. If we're paying people for 8 hours, get 8 hours of work out of them. How many people could we do without if the rest of the staff was working another 2.5 - 5 hours a week?
And don't expect that the Democrat stimulus package passed by the House and currently in the Senate will save us from having to make tough decisions!
This budgetary problem has been building for years and the only thing that will solve it is taking an axe to spending.