Monday, July 16, 2012

Mayor Bell wants to use General Fund dollars to cover CDBG shortfall

Look for fireworks tomorrow as the Toledo city council again tries to figure out how to split up limited - and reduced - funds among a large group of prior recipients - or maybe not.

From the agenda (emphasis added):

On July 3, 2012 City Council was unable to reach a consensus on funding allocations from the Community Development Block Grant to various Public Service Activities, Community Development Corporation Activities, and City Departmental Allocations. In addition, the Council was unable to reach a compromise, despite voting on six different amendments or proposals, to provide additional funds for homeless shelters and EOPA.

The result of this inaction by Council the Public Service Agencies, Community Development Corporations and City Departments are uncertain of their funding for the period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. To resolve this deadlock the Mayor has proposed this compromise ordinance.

This ordinance retains the funding recommendations of the Citizens Review Committee and the Department of Neighborhoods for allocation of the 38th year Community Development Block Grant. In addition, this ordinance provides funding in the amount of $215,000 from the General Fund to homeless shelters and EOPA to address critical needs in the community.

For background, EOPA, the Economic Opportunity Planning Association has faced financial troubles in the past and had, until earlier this month, been in negotiations with Toledo Public Schools for a partnership in running the Head Start Program. Under new federal rules, Head Start will seek bids for providing the services and TPS had indicated an interest in bidding for the $13 million program. The linked Blade article adds:

However, more ultimately could be at stake for EOPA. The $13 million Head Start grant makes up the bulk of the agency's $19.5 million budget; many at the agency have said losing the grant would threaten the organization's very existence. EOPA also operates heating-assistance programs, home-repair assistance, a fatherhood program, and other social services.

So now the city - which put a 1 mill recreation levy on the ballot for November because it didn't have enough general fund dollars to cover their desired spending for parks and recreation - wants to take nearly a quarter of a million dollars out of the general fund to cover the reduction in federal funding.

The politicians just don't get it!

Families and businesses in Toledo are cutting back because of the economy. Many are without jobs - and job prospects. Governments and government agencies at all levels are overspending and a lot are asking for even more money. Toledoans in Lucas County will see a whopping seven - yes, seven - levy requests on the ballot.

And what is Toledo doing? Refusing to cut back its spending and taking even more money out of the general fund which is supposed to pay for essential city services.

Don't forget - the 2012 City of Toledo budget calls for $12 million to be transferred out of the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) budget just to balance the planned spending in the General Fund.

This transfer of nearly half a million dollars was NOT part of the original budget - so where are they getting it from? They're borrowing from the CIP.

If they should claim that additional tax revenues have come in, then the question all taxpayers in Toledo should ask is this:

If you've got extra money, why aren't you replacing the over $50 million you've raided from the CIP over the past several years - or putting it into the rainy day fund which you depleted before you started raiding the CIP?

The taxpayers of Toledo should be the first priority if the city has extra income - not special interests who want always want 'more, more, more' - no matter how noble their cause may be.

If all the levies on the ballot should pass (and I sincerely hope they do not), my taxes will be increased by nearly $700 because of the value of my home and its extra lot.

That's $700 that will go to various governmental entities, including the City of Toledo, to pay for THEIR spending priorities - not my own, because I'm not getting a pay increase and neither is my husband. And that $700 will be on top of the additional health care costs we're incurring due to Obamacare and state rules, as well as the food inflation that will require more of our funds to pay for the food we eat.

As a result of the government taking more money from me, I will have no choice but to reduce my expenditures. How will that affect others? Will I not spend $700 eating out at local restaurants? Will Webber's - one of our favorite places to get a perch sandwich - see less of us? How about any of the other places where we love to eat out?

Will we reduce our charitable giving? Will we have to cut back on our financial support to Mobile Meals and their annual Wine Gala fundraiser? Will we have to stop donating food to the Northwest Ohio Food Bank?

Or maybe, we don't spend the money to do the renovation our kitchen so desperately needs. We've been saving up for that, but all these additional costs could have us putting it on hold. How many businesses (Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace Hardware in Point Place, the granite supplier) will go without our money as result?

Now multiply that across every home in the city. There's no wonder why Toledo is in decline.

Remember the 'Broken Window Fallacy'? This is similar, as the politicians are only looking at the money they're going to give to the CDBG recipients and not looking at the places that won't get spending from me as a result of having to pay higher taxes so the city can afford to have the extra funds for the CDBG spending.

The recipients of the CDBG funds are not bad organizations, but their priorities are not mine - nor are they the priorities of a majority of Toledoans. They are special interests feeding off the taxpayer through the government.

It does not matter if they are doing good work in the community or not. Their insistence that they continue to receive the same (or more) funds than they have in the past simply because they're 'doing good' means that government has to prevent all of its citizens from doing their own good so the government can take citizens' money for this particular 'good.'

It also means that Toledo, as an entity, will continue down its wrong path of increasing taxes on the poor and middle class; raiding the CIP fund thus reducing funding for future needs like for roads and infrastructure; and issuing debt to cover regular expenses - all so that a limited number of special interests don't have to face the cuts that the majority of their funders have to deal with.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

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