Toledo Public Schools is asking voters in the district to approve Issue 20 on the fall ballot. The levy will support 23,000 students who depend on TPS to give them a high-quality school environment that will prepare them for success in life.
Issue 20 is a 10-year, 4.9-mill emergency levy. It will cost the owner of a $60,000 home $90.04 a year.
Local tax dollars fund about 30 percent of TPS’ operating budget. The rest comes primarily from the state of Ohio. The last time voters approved new operating dollars for the district was 11 years ago.
Since then, TPS’ annual budget has grown at a meager pace, primarily because of increases in state aid. But over the past several years, the state share of district revenues has dwindled as well.
In 2010, TPS faced a projected deficit of more than $30 million; that gap threatened to grow over the next few years to as much as $80 million. The district made cuts that brought our budget back into balance for the year. But we had to do more to stabilize the district’s finances.
Thus, the TPS transformation plan was born. In a year’s time, TPS redesigned its schools both structurally and programmatically — with a lot of cooperation from our employees and the local community. Today, in the plan’s second year, TPS is in a position to improve in both stature and performance.
Each element of the transformation is designed to improve opportunities for TPS students to succeed academically and to graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Our reconfiguration of K-8 schools, distance learning, an inclusion program for special-need students, credit recovery, high school courses for 7th and 8th graders, and meaningful partnerships with community agencies all add value to each student’s academic experience.
TPS staff accepted a 2.5 percent reduction in wages on top of a hard pay freeze and an increase in health-care premiums and deductibles. These employee concessions, along with staffing cuts and the transformation plan, created annual savings of nearly 18 percent, resulting in positive fund balances for three years.
But as much as things are changing, some things remain the same. We continue to wrestle with the challenge of supporting innovation in our schools as state and local revenues shrink.
And while TPS remains focused on delivering a high-quality program of instruction, it cannot ignore the impact of our economy on the lives of children whose families are struggling. Many children come to school every day with issues that cannot and must not be ignored.
TPS, with help from our community partners, now offers valuable auxiliary services to our students and their families. These services provide a lifeline of support to combat the impact of tough economic circumstances.
TPS has been a good steward of taxpayers’ investment. The district has recaptured the momentum it needs to compete in our complex 21st century world.
Our children are our most precious asset. For their benefit and for the benefit of our community, I ask for your support of TPS and Issue 20.
Jerome Pecko is superintendent of Toledo Public Schools.