In 1982, Councilman, Donna Owens, believed the tax could be sold to the voters because it was temporary (a ½% permanent increase was soundly defeated the year before) she commented about the possibility of renewing the tax in the future stating: “and they have the chance to say so at the polls if they do not like the way the additional money is spent”.
The language of the levy guaranteed the revenue would “funnel the proceeds in 3 areas:
- ¼% police and fire for hiring 115 police officers and 32 fire fighters and for upgrading equipment (especially fire equipment)
- ¼% to the general fund for restoration of weekly garbage collection, reopening the parks and restoration of cutbacks in the health department.
- ¼% for capital improvements fund for repayment and rescheduling the city’s debts, resurfacing streets, restoration of storm sewers and demolition of vacant and vandalized houses.
Over the past years, the wording has been diluted until it no longer specifically covers refuse collection which has gone unnoticed by the majority of voters. Ask your neighbors “what is to be paid for by the ¾% temporary tax?” Most will say, police, fire and refuse collection. Instead per the Municipal code, it covers:
· one-third (1/3) shall remain in the General Fund for police, fire and other Safety Department responsibilities,
· one-half (1/2) of said increase shall remain in the General Fund,
· one-sixth (1/6) of the said increase shall be allocated to the Capital Improvements Fund.
With this wording the city is no longer bound to provide the refuse service we expected when we voted for the levy in 2004.
How is the money being allocated? Our politicians have spent 26 years “negotiating” unsustainable contracts with the Unions representing the city employees. We will not survive as a community if our City leaders continue on this path of unrealistic wage and benefit packages. How did this come about as we entrusted our taxes to the politicians of Toledo?
The Blade article last week which covered the Mayor’s fundraiser paints a picture of what is to come when they reported that in attendance at the $500 per ticket fundraiser were “all the union chiefs”. Blade article
Backroom deals are cut with the union chiefs to garner endorsements, contributions and campaign workers for the candidate who will offer the best package if elected. The result over the past years has been an exploitation of the generosity of the electorate who continues to offer up additional taxes to pay for these agreements. Voters are not naïve and accept this is “politics as usual” accepting the status quo; however, it has gone too far and needs to be remedied.
The challenge for those currently in office is to understand we are at a critical turning point in Toledo politics. They must set aside self-interest and concern for reelection with the understanding that the funds to finance the current contracts do not exist and voters are financially unable to continue digging deeper to finance such folly.
Commentary # 2 to follow.