Councilman urges mayor to freeze city workers’ pay

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A conservative city councilman called on Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson Thursday to freeze all city employees’ wages for three years if her income-tax hike request on Tuesday’s ballot is approved.

“The city’s … general fund [salary cost has] increased $13.6 million in two years,” Councilman Tom Waniewski, a Republican representing District 5, told the mayor via an email obtained by The Blade.

The cost for general fund salaries was $152.69 million in 2014. It is projected to be $166.32 million this year, according to the mayor’s proposed budget.

“Additionally, a proposal to rearrange the Department of Public Utilities staff will result in a 7 percent increase in wages if approved,” he wrote. “In the next 18 months, six of the city’s nine bargaining units’ contracts will be up for renewal.”

Voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve Issue 2, which would increase the temporary portion of Toledo’s income tax from 0.75 to 1 percent through 2020. Effective July 1, Toledo’s total income tax would be 2.5 percent — the same as about 20 other Ohio cities, including Columbus.

The temporary tax is added to Toledo’s 1.5-percent permanent income tax and provides the bulk of the city’s operating and capital-improvements revenues.

The current 2.25 percent income tax is expected to generate $167.5 million this year. If it’s increased to 2.5 percent, the annual revenue jumps to $186.1 million.

At Mayor Hicks-Hudson’s urging, city council committed to devote to residential street repair $16.6 million out of the additional $18.6 million that the 0.25-percent boost is expected to generate this year. The remaining $2 million would go to the general fund and could be used for police salaries.

The mayor has spent weeks urging retirees in Toledo to vote yes on the tax.

Mr. Waniewski said he wanted the mayor to remember Toledo’s working families.

“It’s time to champion the efforts of those hard-working families,” he wrote. “After all, they will bear the brunt of the proposed income tax increase. Last year, Lucas County raised sales taxes making the rate one of the highest in the region. Issue 2 has the potential to be a double whammy on working families.”

He said he was not calling for the increase’s defeat.

He was among nine councilmen who voted in December to put the mayor’s request before voters. Councilmen Rob Ludeman, Sandy Spang, and Mike Craig voted no.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson, who enjoyed strong union support last year during her campaign, said she wants to make Toledo more efficient.

“I am looking at all ways to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars,” the mayor said. “I appreciate his suggestion, and I am going to review it.”

She said city wages must remain competitive with other municipalities.

Union leaders were not pleased to hear of Mr. Waniewski’s request Thursday.

“Why does the councilman feel that, every time there is an issue like that, the city workers have to take the hit? Especially Local 7, who are the lowest paid, but 95 percent of our workers live in the city,” said Don Czerniak, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7.

“We are still trying to catch up from the [Mike] Bell administration, when all our employees lost all that money,” Mr. Czerniak said. “They are wondering why people won’t come to work for the city.”

Local 7 is the city’s largest union with 835 members. Its contract expires June 30, 2017.

The contracts of the four Toledo police and fire unions, representing rank-and-file officers and command officers, each expire on Dec. 31. 2017. The contract for AFSCME Local 2058, the city’s supervisory and technical union, expires May 31, 2018.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

http://www.toledoblade.com/Politics/2016/03/11/Councilman-urges-mayor-to-freeze-city-workers-pay.html