11/16/08

Gov't unions in taxpayer face-off

More AFSCME stories: hereMore union-dues stories: here

AFSCME dues hit in Ohio foreshadows national trend in 2009

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's proposed 2009 operating budget, which he revealed last night, will mean deep cuts across the city in order to deal with what he called a "horrific economic storm" that has battered nearly every American city.

Under the proposed spending plan, the city next year would hire no firefighters or police, layoff about 40 employees, and close all but one of its public pools. Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged that the city's residents and employees will have to make sacrifices next year.

He even promised to reach into his own pocket and cut his $136,000 salary by 15 percent.

"For five years now, we have been under siege in terms of having to shear from the budget, but up to this day, Toledoans have not found themselves inconvenienced," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

That is going to change. His budget proposal calls for:•Making 40 layoffs across all departments except police and fire to save $2.54 million.

•Eliminating 36 vacant jobs to save $2.6 million.

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Among the budget cuts:

• 40 layoffs across all departments except police and fire.

• Canceling police cadet and firefighter classes.

• Granting no pay raises for city employees, except for Teamsters Local 20. Those employees will get a 3 percent pay increase as a result of arbitration for 2009.

• Closing all city pools except Detwiler Pool and the splash pad at Savage Park.

• Reducing funding for the city’s criminal justice program and Toledo Municipal Court by $2.3 million.

• 15 percent cut from the mayor’s salary of $136,000.
•Canceling planned police cadet and new firefighter classes to save $5.3 million.

•Granting no pay raises for any city employee, except for Teamsters Local 20, the union representing trash collectors. Those employees will get a 3 percent pay increase as a result of arbitration for 2009.

•Requiring, through contract negotiations, health insurance co-payments from all city employees.

•Closing all city pools except Detwiler Pool and the splash pad at Savage Park, both of which will be paid through the Toledo CityParks Fund trust.

•Making changes to refuse collection to cut overtime and by deploying more automated garbage trucks in September.

•Shutting down all nonessential business for four days.

•Reducing funding for the city's criminal justice program and Toledo Municipal Court by $2.3 million.

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the cutbacks are not optional.

He said the Finkbeiner administration would not agree to any contracts that do not reflect the needed cost-savings - which include the pay freezes, medical premium co-payments, and pension pickups.

Don Czerniak, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, which represents about 900 employees, was unsure last night what kind of reaction the proposed budget would get from union members.

"If it came out there would be massive layoffs and the city was going down the toilet and there was proof that would happen, I believe the city employees would come forward," Mr. Czerniak said.

The austere proposed budget of $249,369,853 is a decrease in spending of 1.86 percent over the 2008 budget of $254,098,770.

City Finance Director John Sherburne said the city would have to increase spending next year by 5.6 percent just to maintain the same level of services and jobs as they existed in 2008.

Doing so was dismissed early on as impossible given the worsening economy and shrinking revenue from incomes taxes and other sources, he said.

Income tax collection, which represents more than 66 percent of the revenue supporting the general fund, is projected to drop from $173.2 million to $169.6 million - the same amount collected in 2007.

The mayor's proposed budget also requires the city to use $2 million of its $6.4 million rainy-day fund; continue the city's refuse collection fee to generate $4.7 million, and operate red-light cameras to bring in $2.58 million from tickets.

Regarding the criminal justice program, the budget leaves funding for security for the municipal courthouse unchanged from last year at $1.9 million, but allocates nothing for public defenders or hospital services. There will be funding cutbacks for pretrial services and pretrial detention.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the municipal court judges and the clerk of court are being asked to slash their budgets by 5 percent.

"No one should consider that they can have the same number of people that they have had in years past," the mayor said. "Even in the utilities departments, the enterprise funds that make money - we expect them to prune."

Mr. Reinbolt said the city is negotiating with Lucas County to pay for public defenders.

The proposed budget book was delivered to members of Toledo City Council beginning at 9 p.m. yesterday.

The mayor is required by charter to issue a budget estimate by Nov. 15 each year. Council must vote on the general fund budget by March 31.

Councilman Frank Szollosi said he was grateful voters last year approved a charter amendment requiring the mayor to balance the budget.

The 2007 budget proposal went to council with a built-in $10.6 million deficit.

He does not want a repeat of last year when council was given a budget proposal for 2008 but did not approve the plan until March 25.

"Here at least we are getting the tough news early," Mr. Szollosi said. "I would have preferred last year to spread the pain over 12 months by passing the budget in early January. Now we have an opportunity to roll up our sleeves and figure out a way to stop the hemorrhaging."

Judge Timothy Kuhlman, the Municipal Court's presiding judge, said he was unsure how his budget could be cut 5 percent and if that would include forced costs such as building repairs and utilities.

"We are as thin as we can get and when I say I am willing to work with them, I am not saying I am sure how we will make any significant savings," Judge Kuhlman said.

The Toledo Municipal Court judges on Friday were given authority by the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals to order city officials to give them more money for security for 2008.

City officials first announced possible cuts to the court's funding during the 2008 budget process late last year. The Finkbeiner administration wanted to save money by hiring part-time security instead of contracting with the Lucas County Sheriff's Office.

"We understand the city has significant budget issues and we understand we are a significant part of the budget," Judge Kuhlman said. "Part-time security officers are not the way to do it - it's not safe."

Mr. Finkbeiner also has to balance the 2008 general fund budget by cutting up to $10 million. The budget ran into the red this year from a number of sluggish revenue sources, including income taxes not meeting expectations.

(toledoblade.com)

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