Several budgetary items were discussed and recommended during an hour-long workshop prior to the regular Toledo City Council meeting, which also contained numerous quick items of approval on Monday night, Jan. 25.
Mowing contracts, department heads' salaries and janitorial wages were the main issues of discussion from the Jan. 28 budget meeting. While public works salaries, police roof payment and the Aquatic Center bond were among the topics of the regular monthly meeting.
The majority of the budget meeting was spent talking about the city's janitors. Deb Peska kicked off the meeting by expressing her concerns with the city's janitorial pay. Peska cleans the Toledo Police Department building for less than $1,000 a year, but she offered to clean the Community Building for much less than the city is paying Dwayne and Pam Wood.
After hearing Peska's remarks, the city council members discussed the janitors' wages. Council member Travis Mullen came into the meeting a few minutes late and walked into Peska's public comments. He had a strong opinion on the janitor issue.
"Where do we stop at?" Mullen asked. "Do all city jobs that can be bid on become biddable? If someone comes in and says they'll do a job for cheaper, are we going to open up to that option? Personally, I'm kind of scratching my head that we are still talking about this, with how many times we've previously spoken about it. It went to committee and the committee has made a recommendation. These are individuals, who for 25-plus years, have done this job and it's never been an issue until now. The previous raises were approved by previous councils."
Auditors Ask For Changes
City Clerk Julie Wilkerson said she was contacted by the city's auditors about the janitor's wages. She was told to fix the problems, which she explained to the council members.
"What the auditors want is for everybody to be on the same page," Wilkerson said. "They're telling me you have to take taxes out and pay IPERS as a city employee. They told me to re-evaluate it and get everybody on the same page so it's fair.
"For them to be contract labor, they have to supply their own cleaning supplies and everything," she said. "The (Pat and Kent) Campbells do."
The Campbells clean the Reinig Center for the city. The Woods and Peska are not contracted, but it was the Woods, who clean the Community Building, who were the topic of conversation at the meeting. The Woods have been cleaning for the city for more than two decades and their wages have been increased during the years as previous city councils have increased wages of city workers.
After Peska's remarks, the idea of lowering the Woods' wages was discussed. When city departments made budget requests on Jan. 7, the Woods said they would negotiate their cost, but they weren't asking for more money from the city as the budget is already tight.
"The only thing that really upsets me is that every time it gets brought up, we just single this one out," Council member "Elmer" Skip Wilson said. "We don't talk about the police station cleaning. We don't talk about the Campbells. We don't talk about the library or the city. Every time is strictly this.
"Instead of taking it to committee, I'd rather them meet with the whole council," he said. "I think we could do a closed session, since it's personnel."
Mullen agreed with Wilson.
"For the record, I'm with Skip," Mullen said. "If this were any couple their age, who had been working here this long, I would be concerned about pulling the rug out from under them. Just to be clear, it's not me being pro-Woods. This is me being concerned about pulling the rug out from under someone who has served more than 25 years."
Council member Brian Sokol made a suggestion for the council.
"If it's not a quality of the job; if it's the bottom line, maybe a committee or someone meet with them," Sokol said. "Tell them that budgets are tough and they said they're willing to negotiate the price. Instead of pulling the rug from underneath them, ask them if they can do it for cheaper."
The other city council members agreed. Mullen and Wilson will talk with the Woods and come back to the council with a solution. The city council also decided to give department heads a 2.5 percent salary increase for the 2013-2014 budget.
At the previous meeting, council members talked about having city workers do more mowing during the spring and summer, instead of contracting the mowing. However, last week, the council went the opposite way. Sokol suggested continuing with the contract mowing, as it would save the city more money in the long run. Council member Jeff Filloon agreed, saying the city would be paying for new mowers and repairs. The rest of the council agreed.
The city council also agreed to increase the Wieting Theatre Guild's appropriation to $5,000, as requested by the Guild members.
At the regular meeting, the city council listened to John Thomas, the union representative for the City of Toledo employees. He informed the council that it had too many categories and some wages weren't on the pay scale for the public works employees. Two titles were eliminated because there is no one to fill those spots. Also the employees were moved to their wage classification.
The city council also took care of numerous quick-ticket items at the meeting. The council unanimously approved the first payment for the new PD roof for $36,380.25. The council also voted to advertise the Reinig Center in the "Bridal Ideas" section of the Marshalltown Times-Republican and to hold off on refinancing the Aquatic Center Bond.
The next budget meeting is March 11. The next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. Feb. 11.