Voters are likely to decide at the Nov. 5 general election if they want Toledo Public Schools to get the tax-renewal millage it needs to have a shot at keeping many of the school district's current operations intact.
The district's board of education hasn't actually put the proposal on the Nov. 5 ballot yet. But signs are pointing in that direction, now that it chose not to place the millage question on the May ballot. It also recently missed the deadline for the August election.
The school district's current operating millage expires at the end of the calendar year. Failure to get at least a replacement levy passed would likely force immediate budget cuts in the midst of next school year.
A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of taxable property value. TPS is at the end of a five-year levy for 6.5 mills, which generates about $13 million a year for the district. It was approved by voters in 2008 with about 61 percent of the vote.
District leaders are developing a campaign strategy. They said a renewal levy is paramount for district operations.
"We have to go for the renewal," TPS Treasurer Matt Cleland said Wednesday at a board finance committee meeting. "We don't have any other choice but to do so."
Mr. Cleland presented four possible scenarios Wednesday for the district's five-year budget forecast. Each scenario depends on what happens with the levy and state funding levels.
Based on his projections, the district needs both the levy to pass and state funding levels similar to those pass by the Ohio House; the House plan includes a 6 percent increase in TPS funding next year.
But if either the levy fails or state funding ends up similar to levels proposed by Gov. John Kasich - whose funding formula included flat state revenue for TPS - the district would face budget deficits in fiscal year 2014. In the worst-case scenario, which would be a levy failure and flat state funding, Mr. Cleland projects a more than $14 million deficit.
Even the status quo of a passed levy and flat funding would create a deficit next year, according to the forecasts.
The budget forecasts are based on assumptions that could easily change, drastically altering the financial picture for the district.
Mr. Cleland projected a 3 percent increase in staff wages in each of the next three fiscal years, but wage and benefit levels depend on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with labor unions. The 3 percent increase isn't necessarily a district proposal for negotiations, but rather a guess for the purposes of projections.
The forecast also doesn't include potential cost savings recommended in a performance audit. Mr. Cleland said he didn't include those potential savings because the final audit won't be presented to the board until a June 4 special board meeting, and because and implementation plan hasn't been determined.
The school board has until Aug. 7 to place a levy question on the November ballot.