Thursday, February 02, 2012

Toledo council keeps spending while raiding another $12 million from CIP

Among other things in the 2012 Toledo budget Toledo City Council passed Tuesday is a commitment to put $150,000 into the rainy day fund.

This fund, also known as a budget stabilization fund, was depleted years ago because our mayors and council members just couldn't stop spending.

Faced with not enough income to meet their desire for 'more, more, more,' council has transferred (at last count) more than $50 million out of the Capital Improvements Plan fund (CIP) into the general fund to meet the everyday costs of the city.

So now council is going to start building back up the rainy day fund.

You'd think this was a good thing...but (there's always a but), they're still raiding the CIP to the tune of $12 million!

According to the city, the actual planned amount is $11,949,054, which does included $1.1 million originally unplanned, but approved by council yesterday to make up for the lack of revenue due to a delay in the opening of the casino.

Is there anyone else who fails to see the logic of this action?

Why not just leave that money in the CIP? Why not just cut the budget to live within the existing revenue? (Heaven forbid!)

Actually, what makes it worse is that, based upon some updated projections, council decided it actually had about $1 million more than it had budgeted. But instead of reducing the amount they planned to take out of the CIP, they SPENT IT!

Despite having cut the position from prior budgets in order to save money, they voted to spend $57,350 on an executive director to run the previously eliminated Toledo Youth Commission. Wow - we've survived how long without that entity and someone to run it, but now it's a priority for extra spending?

The City Council also wants a new filing system - and a temporary employee. That cost us $40,000. One member wanted additional funds for the demolition of houses - add another $100,000. Council rep Paula Hicks-Hudson wanted two more inspectors in the code enforcement division (despite rumors that the division didn't want the extra staff). That was $103,000. And, not to be outdone, Joe McNamara decided we needed a consultant to create a Historic Preservation Plan. Chalk up another $30,000.

Don't we already have historical societies who can do that sort of thing?

Total extra costs on pet projects of the council members? $330,350. Just about the same amount that the new red light cameras are supposed to bring in - except that money is targeted for the recreation department.

And all of these things council just had to have now. This year. Right away.

Councilman Tom Waniewski asked members of council to maybe wait and not plan on spending the money now. He suggested that perhaps council wait to see if all projected revenue comes in as planned. Nope! Council was having none of it. They had money burning a hole in their collective pocket and it had to be spent.

It's a disgrace that no one suggested just not taking as much money out of the CIP.

$12 million. That's $12 million in road paving, sidewalks, equipment replacement, etc... that is, instead, going to cover every day expenses like copy paper, office supplies, salaries, etc.

These members of council have no shame. They just spend and spend and spend - even when they don't have to.

And some of these costs are continual. The new inspectors and youth commission director are not temporary jobs. These are positions that will need wages and benefits covered next year, and the year after that, and the year after that - unless future councils actually decide that cutting spending is the only option left.

But the day they have no other choice but to cut may be closer than they think.

Just prior to yesterday's council meeting where they voted in favor of the extra spending - as well as the $12 million raid on the CIP, they held a press conference and urged citizens to again approve the 3/4% temporary payroll income tax.

They said the $51 million that the tax raises is critical to the city and doom and gloom will result if we don't approve the tax on the March 6 ballot. But then, they always cry poverty when the tax is up for renewal, going so far as to say there was 'nothing left to cut' when it came to prior budgets.

The 'stuck-on-stupid' action of asking for a tax renewal while spending anticipated (not even actual - just anticipated) extra funds instead of setting them aside or - gasp! - not spending them at all, defies logic, reason and common sense. And it's a perfect example of the hubris of our council members who just don't understand how to say 'no' to spending other people's money.

Maybe a defeat of the 3/4% payroll income tax is the message they need.

So when you vote on March 6, remember that your city council spent money it didn't have to, depleted the rainy day fund and has raided the CIP by about $62 million (running total), refusing to stop spending while telling you that you must make sacrifices to pay for the excess.

Vote no on the 3/4% payroll tax until city council members understand that they need to 'just say no' to spending.

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