Bell: 'Balanced budget requires shared sacrifice'

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell has sent a balanced budget proposal to City Council that he says would require "shared sacrifice" from Toledo employees and citizens.

Included in the Mayor's plan are recommendations for approximately $10 million in expenditure reductions, a sport and event tax, a refuse fee for residents, and the elimination of income tax credit for those residents who work outside city limits.

Bell says a simple solution would be to lay off additional workers; however, he doesn't see that as a fix to the city's budget woes. He states that as unemployment rises, income tax revenues fall proportionately, only adding to the city's money troubles. As a former fire chief, Bell says he cannot "in good conscience" resort to further cuts in Toledo's police and fire departments. He says the city cannot afford longer response times due to another reduction in public officers. Instead, Bell's recommends a class of 30 police officers to start Sept. 2010.

The budget proposal also includes the elimination of all employee pension pickups and greater employee contribution for health insurance from all union members, including exempt employees and Bell himself. Four of the city's major unions have already voiced opposition to the recommendations. Bell has since suggested the union's collective bargaining agreements be altered, citing the fact that there is no chance of balancing the 2010 budget without severe cuts unless the unions yield.

Apart from city workers, Bell is asking citizens to bear a portion of the burden of digging Toledo out of its financial hole. The Mayor has asked City Council to approve a fee that would tack $15 onto residents' refuse service charge, regardless of whether the resident recycles or not. The proposal would allow for the establishment of an enterprise fund that covers the cost of picking up and disposing of refuse.

Bell is also asking for the elimination of the income tax credit for anyone who lives in Toledo but works outside the city. He cites the fact that these individuals use police, fire and other services provided by the city without contributing tax dollars to support them. Council has also been asked to approve an 8% ticket tax on professional sports, concerts, and entertainment venues.

Bell's balanced budget proposal was delivered to council president Wilma Brown and members of City Council on Monday. Council will meet on Tuesday and has until March 31, 2010 to adopt a balanced 2010 budget.