Currently, this tax is split:
* 1/3 for Police, Fire and Safety Department responsibilities
* 1/3 for the General Fund
* 1/3 for the Capital Improvement Fund.
Voters approved this change in allocation in 2008 beginning with collections in 2009.
The allocation prior to the 2008 vote was:
* 1/3 for Police Fire and Safety Department
* 1/2 for the General Fund
* 1/6 for the Capital Improvement Fund
As I wrote at the time,
Since the tax generates about $57.7 million per year, that means:
* $19 million to police/fire/other safety department responsibilities
* $28.75 million to the General Fund
* $9.6 million to the Capital Improvement Fund
But the 2008 vote changed the allocation to equal thirds of the tax and, as a result, changed the dollar amounts to roughly $19 million each.
All members of city council and the mayor supported the passage of this change. But as I questioned at the time:
Now, it should be easy to see that with the CIP getting more money, the general fund (including police/fire/other safety department responsibilities) gets less - $9.75 million less, to be exact.
So, despite the claim by Council President Mark Sobczak that "(i)t'll be business as usual...", it really won't be if the general fund has to go without approximately $10 million starting in January.
So where will roughly $10 million in cuts come from? Inquiring minds want to know.
That question was never answered and the change in allocation is being blamed for part of the budget deficit.
So now, we're back to the beginning - sort of - with the Issue 1 language which will again change the allocation:
* For 2009, 1/2 to Police and Fire and 1/2 to the General Fund - nothing for the Capital Improvements Budget (CIP).
* For 2010-12, the term of the temporary tax, 1/2 for Police and Fire, 1/3 for the General Fund and 1/6 for Capital Improvements.
So before we've even gone a full year with the new allocation, they want to change it again.
One of the problems is that city council has already raided the 2009 CIP fund to balance the 2008 budget. They're also talking about raiding the 2010 CIP budget to balance 2009, which is still around $8 million in the hole. Even if voters approve this new allocation, it will not be enough to balance the 2009 budget.
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.
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.
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.