Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tough Decisions in Tough Times

This is a difficult time in Toledo and City Council has many tough decisions to make. How can you balance the budget effectively and prepare for the future of Toledo.
Regardless of the decisions made, votes taken and outcome, it is essential to acknowledge the sincere, honest effort each Council representative puts into the decisions made. Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the residents of Toledo in such a stressful time.

I offer the following…
Increasing revenue through additional taxes, fees, or assessments may, in the very short term, solve the issue; however, in the long term, it will further alienate residents and businesses and continue the exodus from Toledo.

What are the alternatives?
First, and foremost, reducing the police force by 150 is surreal, unacceptable and irresponsible. There are 3000 employees in Toledo and for a division of 650 to lose 20% of their staff is unimaginable and unreasonable. If the Federal Government is allowing the funds for 40 police officers, why then are the cuts necessary.

The Mayor is taking this approach for 2 reasons, one to force concessions from the Unions and (2) to force Council to bend in his direction of continuing increases in taxes, assessments and fees. Don’t weaken and don’t yield. He is wrong, if he threatens until hell freezes over, he is still wrong.

If 150 more must be cut, take them from unessential services. There are private organizations, which would take on the recreation services and many other services the city now pays to provide. Utilize the private sector.

The Unions are saying they are trying to negotiate the contracts, but also are saying the will not offer concessions. Concessions are not an option they are an essential necessity. The contracts need to be more in line with the private sector. It is a bitter pill to swallow as it was for those of us who work in the private sector and had to also swallow that pill, but that is the medicine needed to fix this economic epidemic. Don’t look for more revenue you must require responsible contracts.

If staff has been cut to 32 hours per week, if refuse collection crews have cut routes and overtime by the rolling pickup schedule, and our employment rate is only 5% higher than the low of 7.5% in 2005, it does not seem possible the gap in the deficit is as great as the Mayor suggests. What has been offered to prove the deficit amount?

Before jumping into privatization of refuse collection, carefully check the numbers. In February, I provided a study of the cost of private companies versus city service and it does not bear out a savings. The study was prior to the changes in crew sizes, changes in routes and rolling schedules (which I consider long overdue).

I DON’T BELIEVE IT!

The budget which is reviewed in a PDF file can be provided by the treasurer in an excel spreadsheet which could easily be assessed and used to determine what is causing the gap. Request and .xls format you can analyze. If you already have one, please forward so I can review. I would like to do a study of the data.

In the end, when the economy improves and one reflects on this very difficult time, I ask this: if the fire protection fee reimbursement ordinance passes, if the refuse fee increase passes, if reciprocity is cut, and city government sees the income continue from these sources, will they continue or will they be discontinued. As with the ¾% temporary tax, the revenue will be used and become necessary. But what then, will we lose more residents due to the increased cost and will we lose more businesses, as more fines, taxes and assessments are set? Will our home insurance rates be increased to cover the decision by Council to bill back the charges for fires and other fire department services?
Why do we pay income tax? When will Toledoans see relief?

Suggestion: Go back about 15 years, 30 years and 45 years and look at a budget and what services were offered in those years. Compare the services and see what changes can be made. I finally realized that so many services we offer in the City started out as a very nice program provided by the private sector and non-profits and seemed like such a good idea, the City took over the programs. We can no longer keep absorbing all the programs that seemed so valuable. Even something as small as the Easter egg hunt… any church in a neighborhood offered egg hunts, why in the world did the City support one also? The church on Strayer Rd. dropped 20,000 eggs from a helicopter!!! Why did the City even consider do an egg hunt? Not only was it a waste of our funds, but also of personnel, printing and advertising.

In this difficult time, get back to basics, police, and fire and refuse collection. These three budget items are first and always attacked in a budget crunch with the intent to frighten residents and Council into compliance to the will of the Mayor. Be tough, be firm and be careful.

With sincerity, I offer thanks for your willingness to represent us in such a difficult environment.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Karen,

Re: Fees (Taxes)

Once instigated, the only way we can rid ourselves of them is be initiating a ballot issue to KILL them.

Government doesn't know how to eliminate/rescind taxes/fees once they have them, because government only knows how to grow..., BIGGER; never smaller.

We have met the enemy and he is us. -- Pogo