Bell warns Council inaction will shut down city

Toledo officials have detailed a grim outlook for the city should City Council fail to adopt a balanced 2010 budget by Wednesday's deadline.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell sent a balanced budget proposal to City Council in early March that, according to the City's Chater and Ohio Revised Code, must be passed and in place by April 1. The city is facing a $48 million budget defecit that Mayor Bell says requires "shared sacrifice" from Toledo employees and citizens in order to balance.

Included in the Mayor's plan are recommendations for approximately $10 million in expenditure reductions, a sport and event tax, an increased refuse fee for residents, and the elimination of income tax credit for those residents who work outside city limits. Mayor Bell has also proposed laying off 125 police officers officers in order to fill the budget gap.

In a memo sent to Toledo City Council President Wilma Brown on Monday, Mayor Bell urged council to focus their attention on balancing the budget. "The time for political grandstanding, introduction of measures that do not balance the budget, and posturing for future political office is over, " Bell wrote. "Instead, it is time for the members of Council to become real leaders and work with me and my Administration to balance the 2010 budget by midnight on March 31."

City Law Director Adam Loukx also outlined to Council President Brown that failure to balance the budget by the mandated deadline could result in the city's having to declare "fiscal emergency." The city will have use of limited funds through April, after which time they would be unable to meet obligations. This includes the ability to pay city employees. "If Council fails to adopt a balanced budget by March 31, the city will not have the ability to pay its employees beyond April 1," Bell wrote in his letter to City Council. "Your continued inaction will shut down the operations of the city of Toledo, including fire and police."

Once a state of "fiscal emergency" is declared, the state will convene a seven-member Financial Planning and Supervision Commission comprised of the state Treasurer, Director of Budget and Management, three individuals appointed by the Governor, Mayor Bell and Council President Brown. This team would have 120 days in which to submit a financial plan to eliminate all deficits and fiscal emergency conditions, balance the budget, maintain payroll and expenditures and avoid any future fiscal emergencies.

City Councilman, George Sarantou, has assured the public that Council is doing everything they can to get a budget passed. "We have no choice," said Sarantou. "We really do have to pass the budget. By law, we must have a balanced budget."

City Council will convene Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. at City Council Chambers.