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Published: Wednesday, 6/27/2007

TPS board OKs 2007-08 budget

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Board of Education last night unanimously approved a balanced budget for next school year, but agreed to hold a public hearing next month to consider changes to the spending plan.

Board member Robert Torres made the recommendation for the July hearing to solicit input. Afterward, the board may make amendments.

The budget for 2007-08 totals more than $344 million - an increase of $7.3 million from spending for the school year that just ended. It calls for cutting 30 elementary teachers, 15 high school teachers, and 5 special education teachers.

However, there will be an additional 16 junior high school teachers to accommodate the sixth grades moving into the new McTigue, Robinson, and Libbey-area middle schools.

Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Public Schools teachers' union, blasted the budget and said, "The cuts are too deep at the classroom level." She said too few administrators and cabinet jobs were cut.

David McClellan, president of the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel union, shot back at Ms. Lawrence by calling her comments "inflammatory and petty."

Superintendent John Foley said class sizes are actually predicted to get better over last year.

The student-to-teacher ratio will be 30-1 for grades three through six, which is down from 35-1 during 2006-07, he said.

The student-to-teacher ratio will be 26-1 for kindergarten through second grade.

Treasurer Dan Romano said the staff cuts are needed because of declining enrollment.

The school system is predicting it will have 27,739 students in the fall, down from 29,509 in October, 2006.

Board members took turns congratulating the district's staff for creating the budget with a zero-based budgeting technique.

District officials last year said they would need to cut $12.7 million from the 2007-08 budget over the previous fiscal year.

Mr. Romano in February said adjustments brought the deficit to about $11.7 million.

Last month, officials said the district would have a $2 million carryover from 2006-07, retained in part by leaving vacant positions unfilled and a greater-than-anticipated student enrollment. But the district will carry over $8.7 million.

The largest percentage of money, about 69 percent, will go to salaries and fringe benefits. The district predicts it will spend more than $167.2 million on salaries, or nearly $1.3 million less than last school year because of the staff reductions.

It also will spend $71.1 million for fringe benefits, $9.31 million for utilities, and $10.46 million for supplies, equipment, and textbooks.

Mr. Romano said there are still major financial uncertainties for the 2007-08 school year.

They include enrollment counts for charter schools and the state's voucher program, uncertainty of the state budget bill, real estate property tax collections in the second year of reappraisal, utility costs, transitional costs for the district's new building construction program, and flexibility of spending poverty-based assistance funds.

Also last night, the board agreed to change the name of the new Cherry Elementary School to Rosa Parks Elementary School and to name the new Libbey-area middle school Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park school.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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