During his first State of the City address on Feb. 24, Mayor Mike Bell said Toledo’s situation is dire, comparing the current budget problems to a 3- alarm fire.
The city faces a $48.2 million general deficit, declining revenues and population as well as little to no regional economic development outreach, he said.
Bell said he has heard lots of complaints about proposals to raise funds and cut costs for the city, but the city has to do something about the $48.2 million deficit. While citizens and even the unions, are resistant to the change that must occur to combat the deficit, everyone must be part of a solution, Bell said.
“There is no easy one-step thing that a mayor can do in this time to be able to solve this. It is going to require us to dissect into our system and try to do things that are least painful to everybody,” Bell said.
The city cannot make the appropriate adjustments to balance the budget without a little bit of pain being felt by all, he said.
The city reached its current state because it’s like everywhere else in the country and has been involved with some bad business ventures, Bell said.
The city is currently paying $1.1 million a year, and will continue to pay that bill until 2028, for Commodore Perry, Hillcrest and Museum Place. Another business venture, the Erie Street Market, makes the city $200,000 a year, but costs $300,000 a year to maintain.
While the intent of those projects may have been to make the city better, the city needs to change the way it does business, Bell said.
Despite the citiy’s problems, Toledo’s potential is unlimited, Bell said.
The city has some of the biggest ports anywhere in the United States, being unutilized. The city hasn’t been working with regional partners. These resources need to be used, Bell said.
The city is working to mend broken ties with surrounding communities as well as explore ways to make Toledo more businesses friendly, he said. The mayor proposed ideas of partnering with Detroit to create an economic partnership like those of Tampa- St. Petersburg and Minneapolis- St. Paul.
“We think too small here. We’ve been geared not to believe we can do things that are so big,” he said.
The mayor was optimistic, predicting 3,000 new jobs coming to Northwest Ohio in the next 18 months.
It may take a few months or a few years to get things corrected, but Bell said he has no doubt in his mind that the city will turn around.
“If we come together and we decide to work together to make Toledo better. we can do it,” he said.