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Published: 9/29/2012

TPS levy racks up endorsements

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With Election Day a little over a month away, Toledo Public Schools’ levy campaign gained a boost through a string of endorsements. Three large nonprofit organizations lent their weight to the school district’s cause Friday, two days after the business community voted to endorse TPS’ levy request.

The United Way of Greater Toledo, the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo jointly announced their endorsements of a 4.9-mill new-money levy on the Nov. 6 ballot for TPS. On Wednesday, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Trustees voted to endorse the levy.

TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko thanked the groups for their support and said their partnerships have been vital for the district.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said.

The three nonprofit groups are partners with the school district in an array of programs and lauded recent changes in TPS that have increased transparency, the district’s efforts to reduce its budget, and a transformation plan begun last year.

“We've seen Toledo Public Schools make excellent progress in the past few years,” said Larry Friedman, a member of United Way’s board of trustees.

The United Way has worked with TPS on a variety of initiatives, perhaps most prominently the schools-as- community-hubs program at four TPS buildings. Funded mostly by the United Way, the hubs bring in a variety of agencies and offerings not just for students but also for the neighborhoods that surround them.

The Boys and Girls Clubs are deeply intertwined with TPS; two clubs are housed at elementary schools, with a third location planned, in East Toledo. And the YMCA has delivered thousands of free meals to students, along with offering free summer programming at TPS buildings.

“Our kids are our future leaders,” said David Wehrmeister, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo, “and they deserve our support.”

TPS originally planned to seek a 6.9-mill levy but reduced its request by a third after better-than-expected budget results. The Toledo Board of Education also changed its request from a permanent levy to one that would expire in 10 years.

The 4.9-mill levy would generate $13.3 million annually and would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $150.06 annually.

The endorsements joined ones offered Wednesday by the chamber and its small business division. The chamber also voted to endorse levy requests by the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, Lucas County Children Services, and the Imagination Station.

Not endorsed by the chamber were levy requests for the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and Toledo’s parks and recreation facilities.

Christine Bailey, communications manager for the chamber, said that votes against endorsement weren’t votes of opposition. Instead, with so many levies on the ballot, the chamber’s board had to prioritize.

“Everyone values each one of these assets to the region,” Ms. Bailey said, “but at the end of the day, I think they had to make some hard choices.”

Campaigns not endorsed by the chamber expressed disappointment, but pointed to other endorsements their causes have received. Each said it hopes to garner support from the myriad residents who benefit from their offerings.

Dennis Johnson, president of the library board of trustees, said it appeared from the chamber’s endorsement choices that the chamber viewed the library as a nonessential service.

“The services we provide are extremely needed in our community,” he said.

The Metroparks levy campaign kicked off Friday, and the chamber’s choice wouldn’t slow down the effort, spokesman Scott Carpenter said.

“We respect the position they are in,” he said of the chamber. “We disagree with them, of course.”

Councilman Lindsay Webb, who helped spearhead the push to get a parks-and-recreation levy on the ballot, said the campaigns not endorsed by the chamber were the very ones that would help support quality of life in Toledo, support economic development, and ultimately, businesses within the chamber.

“I don't think any Toledoan can deny there’s a huge disparity in what is offered in our community and what is offered in the suburban communities,” Ms. Webb said.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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