Cuts could be made in city budgetWritten by Maggie Thurber | Toledo Free Press Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
The .75 percent temporary payroll income tax generates $57.7 million each year. The current distribution is: one-third to police/fire = about
$19 million; one-half to the general fund = $28.75 million; one-sixth to capital improvements = $ 9.6 million.
Contrary to what everyone supporting the tax has said to date, the general fund will not have to make up $57.7 million in cuts. Since $9.6 million goes directly into the capital improvement program (CIP) fund, if the tax is defeated, that money won’t go into the CIP. Granted, the city won’t be able to do as many bike paths and other capital projects, but it is certainly a cut that can be incurred over the short term. The last year the city listed a complete budget for CIP was 2006, and the total amount they had to spend was $88.3 million — so the $9.6 million is only a “minor” 10 percent reduction.
The actual amount the general fund would “lose” if the tax is defeated is $48.1 million. Since one-third of the tax is dedicated to police and fire, I believe they should incur only that portion of cuts — $19 million. If all safety forces agreed to pay their own portion of their retirements (instead of having the city/taxpayers “pick up” those costs), they could save about $12.7 million. That would leave $6.3 million to be made up in the $140.5 million combined budgets for these two departments. That $6.3 million is “only”
4.5 percent of their overall budgets, so an across-the-board cut of that amount applied to these two departments would accommodate the loss of the .75 percent tax revenue. There are other options for cutting these two departments by 4.5 percent, but I think any options for such cuts would not mean that police officers or firefighters would have to be laid off.
Unfortunately, council and the mayor are threatening to have police/fire incur the vast majority of cuts should the tax fail. And of course, they will pick the most severe and most harmful option in order to scare the taxpayers into voting yes.
The balance of the tax, $29.1 million, is dedicated to “other general fund departments.”
If refuse workers went from working only four hours per day to working a full eight-hour day, you could probably save about half the payroll expenses of that department or about $3.7 million. As much as I appreciate the work these employees do, I’ll pull the old liberal tactic and ask if it’s “fair” to the hard-working families of Toledo who have to work more than 8 hours a day in order to make ends meet, to pay these city workers full-time wages for part-time work.
Then, if all other city employees also paid their own portion of Public Employees Retirement System, you’d add another $2.35 million in savings.
According to Karen Shanahan’s Shanahan Select Blog, there are about 3,000 city employees. In the private sector, most employees pay a monthly deduction toward the cost of their health insurance. If all city employees paid $100 per month toward their health insurance, you’d add another $3.6 million in savings — double that if the employee share went up to $200.
You could add another $3.1 million in savings by eliminating non-essential departments. I’m willing to sacrifice these departments to keep police, fire and roads funded.
If we want Toledo to re-focus on the essential city services, we have to be vocal in the things we’re willing to do without. It’s easy to tell elected officials what we want — and all kinds of groups will be demanding that their special interest be kept — but it’s more important to tell them what we don’t want or what we’re willing to do without in order to keep necessary things.
I’ve done that with these suggestions. What about you?
Maggie Thurber is host of “Eye on Toledo,” 6 p.m. weeknights on WSPD-AM 1370.