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Published: Tuesday, 6/27/2006

TPS board slates vote on budget of cutbacks

The Toledo Board of Education will vote tonight on a $336 million general operating fund budget for the next school year that includes the sweeping cutbacks, school closings, and layoffs the board has approved in the last three months.

"I think these are just really difficult decisions," said board President Darlene Fisher. "Based on our enrollment loss, we need to find a way to make this district more attractive."

The board held a public forum last night on the proposed 2006-07 budget.

Dan Burns, the district's chief business manager, said spending has been cut across the board. The cost of salaries has been cut from more than $177 million to $168.2 million, and fringe benefits have been reduced from more than $74 million to about $70.3 million.

"Most school districts in the state of Ohio are in the 80 to 85 percent range for [salaries and fringe benefits]" Mr. Burns said. "We are at 71 percent."

The salary costs in the budget include a decrease of 262 jobs from 2005-06 staffing levels.

Officials expect to have about 28,000 students next school year.

Funding for Toledo Public Schools students attending charter schools - which are publicly funded but chiefly privately operated - is projected to increase to $54 million, up from $47.3 million this past school year, Mr. Burns said.

A predicted loss of 2,250 students, mostly to charter schools, will result in the additional $6.7 million funneled to those schools.

James Larson-Shidler, assistant to the treasurer, said the district's dependence on state funding is increasing.

Local tax revenue will decrease to $106.59 million, down from $111.07 million for the 2005-2006 school year.

The decrease of approximately $4.5 million, or 4 percent, is primarily related to the elimination of personal tangible tax and personal tangible reimbursement.

Mr. Larson-Shidler also said in December, 2008, and December, 2009, levies will expire representing $16 million and $15.7 million a year, respectively.

"Those levies will have to be renewed or we will lose $31.7 million of funding," he said.

Mr. Burns identified several "major financial uncertainties" that could affect the district's bottom line.

The actual district enrollment and number of students who will attend charter schools instead of a Toledo Public Schools building won't be known until the fall.

Each child lost means lost revenue for the district, Mr. Burns added.

The discussion about the budget was ended when five parents whose children attended the preschool program at Washington School on Palmwood Avenue addressed the board and pleaded for them to keep the school open.

The closure, which was approved by the board in April, was just one piece of a $12 million budget reduction that also included slashing the 262 jobs and closing King, Fall-Meyer, and Mount Vernon elementaries and Jones and East Toledo junior highs.

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