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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Few present as TPS staff unveils budget $9M in red


Toledo Public Schools officials last night laid out the facts, figures, and back story of the district's proposed $363 million operating budget during a sparsely attended public briefing and hearing.

Aside from district staff and news media representatives, fewer than a dozen people attended the meeting in the board room of the Thurgood Marshall Building, and only one member of the general public spoke.

Treasurer Dan Romano led the meeting, and urged that those not in attendance visit the district's Web site - www.tps.org - later this week after budget highlights and explanations are published online.

The budget, which covers the fiscal year that began July 1 and the 2008-2009 school year, features declining revenue and rising expenses and calls for a $9.6 million deficit.

The difference between revenues and expenses would come from the district's $21.9 million carryover balance.

"We are spending more than we are receiving," Mr. Romano said, noting the situation is not unusual for districts like TPS with a levy nearing expiration.

The district's 4.99-mill operating levy, set to expire at the end of 2009, needs to be renewed to keep the nearly $16 million a year it generates.

Under the proposed budget, the district would spend 5.5 percent, or $19 million, more than last year.

Much new spending comes from salary and benefit changes in the contract with the Toledo Federation of Teachers, and in pending contracts with the district's other unions.

Salaries and benefits represent 69 percent of total district spending, and would increase 6 percent to $177.6 million under the new budget, even with the proposed net decrease of about 30 staff positions through attrition.

The district also expects to see enrollment decline to about 27,235, a drop of about 1,000 students.

The budget anticipates an overall loss of $2.2 million in revenue, with a $2.8 million decline in local property tax receipts being offset largely with higher state funding.

Jeff Schroeder, the district's director of general accounting, said TPS is experiencing the result of a decline in Toledo's property tax base, and is becoming increasingly dependent on state funding.

The district would receive nearly 67 percent of its revenue from the state under the proposed budget, with 28 percent from local taxes.

By comparison, in the early 1990s TPS received a slightly greater share of its revenue from local taxes than state funding, Mr. Romano said.

If the property value decline continues, future TPS levies would require higher millage to generate the same amount of money as they did in years past.

The Toledo Board of Education is expected to approve the budget proposal when it meets Tuesday.

Mr. Romano said that last night's meeting was worthwhile, even with its low attendance.

"The important thing is that we wanted to provide an opportunity for feedback," he said.

Contact JC Reindl at: jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.

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