Council panel backs nurse funds, hopes for compromise with mayor

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

After a tense, aggressive debate with administration officials, city council’s finance committee approved a bill yesterday that could free up $50,000 to fund seven elementary school nurses.

But the council has put the matter on hold until Dec. 9 in hopes of a compromise with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who vetoed the last bill council passed to fund the nurses.

“I’m hopeful that, in the next two weeks, the mayor and the administration will find a way to work this matter out and find a consensus,” Councilman Peter Ujvagi said.

The bill, which passed the committee 5-2, would demand that the city’s finance department amend Toledo’s certificate of revenue, which details how much the city is allowed to spend. Those figures are based on the administration’s estimate of the city’s revenues, but council members said the strong economy this year has boosted income beyond those estimates.

Updating the certificate to reflect the larger revenue numbers would allow council to spend more money between now and the year’s end. And city Finance Director Don Saunders said that wouldn’t be a wise move.

“If there’s an intent on spending more money, that’s going to be counterproductive,” he said. “If we’ve done better on revenue in 1997, we should put that money toward the reserves and for 1998.”

But council members, in sometimes heated exchanges, argued that those spending decisions were theirs and theirs alone.

“I detest the attitude of questioning why we want [the money],” Councilman C. Allen McConnell said. “We’re entitled to it, we’re demanding it, and we should get it.”

If the certificate is amended, some of the extra money could be used to fund the school nurse program, members said. Council approved the funding in July, but the appropriation was vetoed by Mr. Finkbeiner. Council overrode the veto, but the checks were never issued because, according to the city’s law department, the money came from nonexistent sources.

Council members said that if there is money in Toledo’s coffers, they have the right to use it how they see fit.

“You almost make it feel like you’re my dad, and I’m asking for my allowance,” Councilman Peter Gerken told Mr. Saunders. “And I can tell you that isn’t a feeling this council will tolerate long. You’re a respected man in your field, but you’re not my dad and I don’t have to ask you for this money.”

But when the matter reached the council at its regular meeting an hour later, Mr. Ujvagi moved that the council not take action until its next meeting in two weeks, giving the mayor two weeks to find money for the nurses.

“Where the compromise will come from, I don’t know,” he said.

In other business:

* Council agreed to pay $55,250 to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center for costs incurred in the treatment of two Toledo police prisoners. Mr. Gerken said he had not received information he requested two weeks ago from the police department on the case, but voted to approve the funding anyway.

* Communications giant Nextel has withdrawn its application for a special-use permit, council clerk Larry Brewer announced. The permit was to be used for a 145-foot cellular phone tower, but the company was able to find an alternate location that did not require the special permit, he said.

* Dan Dudas, an East Toledo man hurt severely when his car hit a stopped train in May, petitioned council to hold public hearings on the safety of the Woodford Street grade crossing, where the accident occurred.