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Published: Friday, 8/8/2008

Toledo Public Schools board to vote on $37M levy for Nov. ballot

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Board of Education will vote next week on a bond issue for the November ballot that would give the district access to nearly $40 million for capital improvements while technically not increasing voters' taxes.

The board's business and finance committee yesterday discussed several bond levy options and decided to recommend a levy for $37 million be put before voters on Nov. 4.

It's not a new tax, but a reauthorization of a bond issue voters approved in 2002 to cover 23 percent of the district's building campaign, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission picking up the other 77 percent.

At the time, the plan's scope was $800 million and the bonds that could be authorized were $183 million. When the plan was reduced to $640 million, the bonds that could be issued were reduced to $146 million.

Because the language in 2002 tied the bonds directly to the building plan, the district cannot spend the $37 million difference without going back to voters for a language change.

The full school board will meet at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to vote on putting the issue on the ballot.

If it doesnd voters approve the request, the resulting $37 million would be used to renovate buildings that are not getting any state money, along with other improvements.

Toledo Public Schools Treasurer Dan Romano said the reauthorization would not increase taxes beyond the 4.99-mill levy voters approved six years ago.

If the board decides not to go to voters, or the issue is rejected, voters will save an average of $22.48 a year through the life of the levy, because only $146 million in bonds will be issued instead of the $183 million.

The district has compiled a list of facility needs totaling $57.9 million.

The list includes renovation of Waite High School; the DeVilbiss Academic and Technology Center, which houses Toledo Technology Academy; the Old West End Academy, and Crossgates, Glendale-Feilbach, and Harvard elementary schools.

It also includes $14 million for Scott High School, enough to cover the difference between the $40 million that a full renovation could cost and the $28 million the state will provide.

Facilities needs are not the district's only fiscal concern.

TPS hasn't had any new operating money since 2001 and is anticipating a $26 million deficit for 2010-2011 school year.

That projection includes the renewal of a 4.99-mill operating levy that expires at the end of 2009.

Yesterday, the school board members on the committee, Bob Vasquez and Jack Ford, also discussed asking voters in November to renew that levy, which generates nearly $16 million annually, and possibly asking for new money.

The problem with that, they said, is renewing the 4.99-mill levy would coincide with whatever new money the district might seek, and in these economic times, would voters really approve an 8 or 9-mill levy?

And assuming the district will have a bond issue on the ballot and other organizations also will seek levies, the competition could be too much, the board members said.

After much discussion, Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Ford decided that issue was important enough for the full board to discuss and they would not make a recommendation.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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