Toledo Council talks budget to start 2022

Members of the Toledo City Council gathered for their first meeting of the year on Monday, Jan. 10. The council heard from several department heads about their needs and budget requests for the upcoming year. Pictured are Mayor Brian Sokol, council members Duane Pansegrau, Joe Boll and Terry Goodhart, City Administrator Kendall Jordan and Police Chief Nathan Shepard. – Photo by Darvin Graham

The next fiscal year budget was top of mind at the first Toledo City Council meeting of the new year on Jan. 10.

City department heads presented budget proposals to the council through the evening that gave a window into the potential projects, issues and challenges on the horizon for the city in the year ahead.

Toledo EMS Director Greg Johnson echoed a refrain that has been reverberating throughout Tama County in recent months.

Calls for service have remained consistent, if not increased at times, but the staffing available to meet those calls has either dwindled in number or is strained by overtime.

Johnson said he and fellow paramedic Jesse Brown are averaging over 60 hours per week where they’re on call.

Toledo EMS Director Greg Johnson presents his budget proposal to the Toledo City Council on Jan. 10. Johnson said staffing hours have become a concern and that he would like to see a third paramedic hired in the coming year. – Photo by Darvin Graham

As part of the EMS budget, Johnson requested the council consider hiring a third full-time paramedic to the city department.

Johnson also said the EMS department is looking to purchase an ambulance vehicle within the next year at a cost of around $225,000.

Funding for the ambulance has been set aside over time in a fund built from EMS revenues.

Toledo Police Chief Nathan Shepard presented the police department’s budget request which largely centered around wage increases to match the salary schedule increase the Tama Police Department received in late 2021.

The City of Tama police wage increases, which averaged between $5,000 and $9,000 additional yearly depending on rank, were approved at a time when the department had lost one officer who had resigned and were concerned about losing another who had been applying at other agencies.

The City of Belle Plaine Police Department also approved a dramatic wage increase for their police officers in 2021 that helped to set off a reactionary domino effect of surrounding departments trying to retain their staff.

Shepard said in 2021 before the City of Tama approved their police salary measure, he approached the city with a proposal to develop an emergency 28E agreement with police service between Tama and Toledo in hopes of slowing down the salary increase discussion.

The proposal was declined by Tama, which sent Shepard back to the drawing board to determine the best course forward to promote retention in his workforce.

The police wage increase proposal given Monday was similar in scale to that approved in Tama last year with a slight difference.

Shepard said he would like to adopt a 10-year pay scale instead of a five-year scale that could give some of his younger officers a clear, more enticing picture of where they could be if they chose to invest in a career with the City of Toledo.

In the next year Shepard’s police department budget also includes the purchase of a police vehicle. The purchase would be in line with the department’s set vehicle rotation schedule and would cost in the ballpark of $60,000.

Shepard did not have an exact quote for the purchase since it was early in the budget process and he said he had trouble getting dealerships to get him quotes for vehicles if he wasn’t intent on purchasing one in the immediate future.

The council received a request from Toledo Community Development, Inc. (TCDI) for $30,000 to come from the city’s hotel/motel tax fund. The request comes as the development group is beginning work on a historic renovation project at the former Horbach Building on High Street.

In previous years the council had committed half of the hotel/motel tax revenue to the development group, which would have totalled close to the $30,000 figure.

In recent years however, the group has been less active and hotel/motel tax funds have been spread out to a variety of sources including multiple commitments of funding to the Wieting Theatre.

Should the TCDI request be funded in full, other previously scheduled funds coming out of the hotel/motel tax revenue would need to be altered.

A preliminary city employee wage increase table was presented that proposed increases across the board due to federal cost of living increases that were announced in November.

No specific discussion was had about certain department increases and the council indicated they could gather the requests presented, along with the wage proposals and begin to decide how and if those requests can fit within the next fiscal year’s budget.

City council members will return to the chambers for future budget work sessions in January and February as they work through the annual budget process that typically comes to final vote in late February or early March.