City budget approvedWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
What took several meetings last year was accomplished in one marathon session March 25 when city council passed Toledo’s 2008 general operating fund budget.
Though council members sparred over a controversial fee the city charges property owners for refuse collection, they eventually accepted by an 8 to 4 vote a proposal that increases the charge for trash pickup from $5.50 to $7 a month but offers greater rewards individuals who recycle in the form of a $5 monthly discount. Residents who participate in the city’s curbside recycling program pay $3 a month for refuse collection under the current fee structure, which would have expired April 30 without council action.
The refuse fee will increase again May 1, 2009, to $8.50 per month with a $7.50 recycling discount and to $10 per month with no charge for recyclers from May 1, 2010, moving forward.
When Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner launched the trash fee last year, he said he hoped the percentage of city households that recycled would increase from about 17 percent to 50 percent by 2009. However, estimates put Toledo’s current recycling rate at about 26 percent.
Councilman D. Michael Collins, who along with Councilman Joe McNamara crafted the refuse fee council accepted, said a system that rewards recycling with no charge for trash pickup follows suit with Northwest Ohio’s transformation into an area at the forefront of the green and alternative-energy movements.
“Does it not seem applicable that we would at least have the same passion for recycling?” Collins said.
Councilman Frank Szollosi, who along with Collins and Councilman Michael Ashford voted against passing the amended budget, said he favored eliminating the trash fee altogether. Szollosi said he would have preferred offering a credit to recyclers on their city income tax.
“I voted no on the overall budget because I think there were additional savings that we could’ve realized,” said Szollosi, citing the city’s overtime budget and its contribution to the public employees retirement system as areas he felt needed trimming.
Council designated $75,000 to pay the salary of the city’s vacant economic development director’s position, which was previously occupied by Todd Davies, who took a position with the Regional Growth Partnership. Finkbeiner is Toledo’s acting economic development chief.
Council President Mark Sobczak said he was pleased council was able to pass a budget, but was surprised it included a significant cut to the fund that covers the city’s vehicle fleet.
“I don’t think we can afford the [$400,000 cut] out of the community garage,” Sobczak said, noting he expected Finkbeiner to issue a line-item veto on the matter.
Finkbeiner spokesman Brian Schwartz said the mayor was expected to address council’s accepted budget at a press conference.