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Published: Wednesday, 4/30/2003

TPS vote puts levy renewal on ballot

Toledo Public Schools will ask voters to renew a three-year, 6.5-mill operating levy in the Aug. 5 election, the Board of Education decided unanimously last night.

“We've got our work cut out for us,” Superintendent Eugene Sanders said.

Originally approved in November, 2000, the levy expires at the end of this year. It generates about $16 million annually for the 35,000-student district which is facing a roughly $15 million deficit for the next school year.

Because the district is seeking a renewal and not a replacement, homeowners' property taxes will not increase if their homes have retained their value since 2000, Dr. Sanders said.

“We wanted to go for a renewal instead of a replacement because we thought people would be more responsive to a no new taxes kind of proposal,” he said.

If the levy doesn't pass in the August election, the current projected deficit would nearly double, board President Peter Silverman said.

The administration has proposed cutting 300 jobs and closing two buildings in next year's budget, which must be approved by the end of June. That proposal would be altered if the August levy fails.

Mr. Silverman said the August election date gives the district a second chance, in the November election, to pass the measure should it fail the first time.

“The earlier you find out if you've passed a levy, the more opportunity you have to plan,” he said. “If it fails, we're going to make drastic cuts. It would be improper to wait until November.”

Before the summer vote, Toledo Public Schools will have this year's March proficiency test results which the districts expects to receive in June and to make them public then, said Craig Cotner, the district's chief academic officer.

But the August election date comes before the Ohio Department of Education's scheduled release of its annual district report cards and prior to the district's public report of its teachers' qualifications as required by the new No Child Left Behind federal education law.

In other action last night, the board approved a revised intra-district transfer policy. The new policy states that certain transfers from a student's home school to a different building “will be approved if there is space in the receiving school.”

Joanne DiNardo questioned the definition of “building capacity” for purposes of determining if there is space available for transfers.

“No numbers were determined,” she said. “The schools are getting more and more crowded. We're concerned about the safety of our kids.”

But board Vice President Terry Glazer, who is chairman of the policy committee that worked on the student transfer guidelines, said the district needed to maintain some flexibility in approving transfers and couldn't set a maximum class size or building population as criteria for them.

“We will make every attempt not to alter from the district-wide average class size; however, there may be special cases where we need some flexibility,” he said. “We don't want to be in a situation where we keep a student out of a class because of absolutes.”



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