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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2005

New TPS board members plan funding talks

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Hours after final, unofficial results were released yesterday verifying their election to the Toledo Public school board, three newcomers said they will start discussions very soon on how large an additional tax levy to seek from voters next year.

Voters approved a 2.5-mill renewal levy for TPS on Tuesday by 57 percent to 43 percent.

"We need to demonstrate to the public that we have a board that is truly interested in addressing the needs of the parents and the community," said Robert Torres, the top vote-getter in Tuesday's election. "Once we build that trust, then we can go back in earnest and sell the need for additional money if that is the case."

Mr. Torres, Darlene Fisher, and Steven Steel won seats on the Toledo Board of Education, joining veteran board member Larry Sykes and Deborah Barnett.

Mr. Torres received 25,246 votes, according to unofficial results. Ms. Fisher received 24,709 votes, and Mr. Steel received 21,606 votes, nearly 600 more than incumbent Steven Thomas. Seven candidates, including one write-in, ran for three available seats.

The district faces a projected $19 million deficit for the 2006-07 school year. The current school board voted in September to remove a request for a new 7.99-mill operating levy from Tuesday's ballot, but maintained the 2.5 mill renewal.

Mr. Sykes, who is board president, said the 7.99 mill levy was pulled from the ballot because of skyrocketing expenses the public faces and a lack of support from the teachers union president. The levy would have generated $24.4 million a year for the district and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $244 per year.

Superintendent Eugene Sanders said the administration will help the new board members with their transitions.

"The first thing is giving people some genuine awareness of the deficit facing the district for the '06-'07 school year and the potential magnitude of reductions that would be needed," he said.

The new board members will also be involved with negotiations with all of the district's employee unions, whose pres-ent contracts expire in March.

Mr. Steel declined comment on how much of an additional levy, if any, would be needed. But he acknowledged that the projected deficit is "a crisis that has to be addressed immediately."

Ms. Fisher said a 7.99 mill levy request is too high.

"First of all, I want to see how realistic this $19 million deficit is," Ms. Fisher said. "I think we are going to have to close more schools. We have to make sure our infrastructure matches the enrollment we have."

Ms. Fisher and Mr. Torres were both endorsed by the Urban Coalition and campaigned under the slogan "3 for change" along with Republican Christopher Myers.

Mr. Myers finished last among the six of seven candidates who were on the ballot.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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