I-Team: Funds allocated for Toledo roads could be used for office space

Some Toledo road money could be used for office space
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 8:30 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Could some of those recently approved Toledo road dollars be used to lease out office space in downtown Toledo?

The 13abc I-Team is looking into how Toledo’s income tax dollars are being used.

In 2020 voters approved a quarter percent income tax increase that was dedicated just to roads. Now city leaders are asking that some of those dollars be used to pay the lease for office space for the city engineers who design those roads. The request leads some to ask if this money is being properly spent.

The city administration said more goes into road work than just pavement. But the question being asked now: Is this what voters signed up for?

When Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz pitched issue 4, a quarter percent income tax increase, to pay for Toledo’s roads here was the pitch in October of 2020.

“All I can say is that it’s right there in black and white. The only thing this money can go for is roads. Period. No wiggle room. There’s no other way to interpret it,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said in October 2020.

But does the money for office space fall into the wiggle room category? In the ordinance in front of Toledo City Council the mayor’s administration asks for money from the tax road improvement fund to pay, in part, for a 13-year lease agreement at One Lake Erie Center in downtown Toledo to house the division of engineering and construction management.

“We were promised this was going to roads. When you think of roads you think of concrete, gravel, and pavement, making sure your roads are smooth. I don’t think anyone anticipated office expense,” said Toledo City Councilwoman Katie Moline.

Moline believes this is not what taxpayers expected when they agreed to increase their income tax.

“It seemed pretty explicit that there would be no exceptions, that this would only be used for roads. So when you see something come before the council that says let’s use some of this money for leasing office space I think it does call into question what really were the intention of this tax increase that we’re all feeling,” said Moline.

“When you look at what it takes to actually complete a road you have to start all the way back at the beginning where you have engineering doing the planning,” said Doug Stephens, the Director of the Department of Transportation.

Stephens believes things like the Engineering Department’s offices are one piece of the road project expected to have a $29 million dollar budget next year. About $1.7 million will be spent on engineering services which include office space. A number that might surprise some people.

“I would just ask them to think about how we get to that construction without the people to design it, without the office for them to work in to design it, without the ability to send someone on-site,” said Stephens.

Here’s the exact text of the 2020 road tax ballot issue: “In order to provide funds necessary to pay costs of improving the city’s system of roads, streets, and bridges, including related debt charges.”

The office space issue has people asking if the city is living up to its commitment.

The entire yearly budget for engineering services is about $10 million The road fund is paying about 12 percent of that.

When all is said and done the road program for next year is expected to spend about $27 million dollars on actual pavement, labor, and trucks on the road.

City council recently received the ordinance this week. Residents can expect several debates regarding the ordinance in the upcoming weeks prior to the vote.

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