Friday, Jul 29, 2016
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Education

TPS asks residents to approve 4.8-mill, 10-year-levy

Toledo Public Schools' levy request - its latest attempt to add new local funds - is the largest of eight levies on the Lucas County ballot this week.

Facing shrinking state support, lower local property values, and an outflow of students to the suburban districts and charter and private schools, TPS is asking voters to approve a 4.8-mill, 10-year levy that would generate $13.3 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 house $150.06 annually.

Voters have not approved new levy money for the Toledo school district's general fund since 2000 and twice rejected ballot initiatives in 2010.

District officials say the levy would serve two purposes. First, it would balance TPS' budget until at least fiscal 2015, providing a level of stability after years of budget cuts and employee concessions. Second, it would allow TPS to initiate the second phase of its transformation plan, with the addition of thematic high schools and gifted-and-talented programs for elementary students, among other programs.

READ MORE: The Blade 2012 Voters Guide

Without the levy, budget projections show a deficit appearing by next summer, meaning that district officials would likely have to start cutting this year. The deficit would come in spite of concessions by labor unions last year that included 2.5 percent wage cuts, a freeze to automatic raises, and increased health-insurance contributions.

The school board originally approved a 6.9-mill, continuing levy but reduced its request and added an expiration date after revised budget figures showed the district's fiscal health had improved.

The district has racked up a string of endorsements for the levy, including the United Way of Greater Toledo, the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the endorsing groups are longtime partners with TPS, while others were swayed by the district's attempts to build stronger community relationships, increase transparency, and reduce its budget in recent years. School officials hope those new bonds garner votes from former school levy opponents.

But TPS has seen some of its traditional base of support erode.

Polling done for TPS showed African-American voters, who historically supported TPS levies by wide margins, appear less enthusiastic about the district than in the past. And the district's bid for a federal grant to run Head Start put it at odds with central Toledo's Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo.

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

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