Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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District to kick off campaign for levy

Less than a month before Toledo Public Schools will ask voters to renew a 6.5-mill operating levy for five years, the district's campaign is quietly getting under way.

Superintendent Eugene Sanders and the six campaign co-chairmen plan a formal kick-off tomorrow at the Old West End Academy. The campaign will highlight academic improvements in the district and the renewal aspect of the levy, said Dennis Johnson, president of Brooks Insurance and one of the co-chairmen.

“The key message here is this is not a new tax,” he said. “We get no more money than what it produced the last time which is about $16 million a year.”

The election is necessary because a three-year operating levy expires at the end of this calendar year. District officials have said that if the ballot measure fails, they will need to make another $7 million in cuts.

The Board of Education last month cut about $16 million from the district's roughly $328 million budget largely through eliminating teaching positions.

Dr. Sanders said if the August levy fails, he would recommend the board place it on the November ballot. But failure then would mean some serious reductions, he said.

“Obviously, it would mean drastic cuts to the district, and it could trigger even more of a dire situation than we currently have,” he said. “The only way to basically do it would be to cut staff and to cut programs and probably have to close schools as well as look at transportation and related cuts.”

With no candidate races on the August ballot and a low turnout expected, school official said their campaign would not suffer from the late start.

“It's the middle of summer, and people aren't paying attention yet,” said Mark Luetke, president of Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing, Inc., and a consultant for the district.

A survey of likely voters done a few weeks ago showed the election is “winnable,” Mr. Luetke said. The district will run a “targeted” campaign, he said.

It will include direct mailing to likely voters, some print and radio advertising, and campaigning at churches, public events, and business groups, district officials said.

Denise Alvarado-Haack, a campaign co-chairman and coordinator for domestic violence programs for women at Adelante, Inc., said as the mother of four Toledo Public Schools students, she'll be “spreading the word” door to door during the next few weeks.

“I think it would be a shame if any of the schools had to reduce any of the efforts that they already have,” she said.

Jim Hoffman, chairman of the campaign's finance committee, said the election's $125,000 budget will be raised from local companies and individuals.

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