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Published: 4/21/2000

TPS expense report tells the tale

Campaign finance reports for the March 7 primary election were filed last week at the Lucas County Board of Elections, and while these things amount to some of the driest reading available, there were some interesting tidbits.

Every campaign is required to include copies of receipts from expenditures incurred during the campaign. Most interesting were the purchases of the Committee for Schools, the pro-levy group pushing for passage of a money measure for the Toledo Public School District.

Despite no organized opposition, the 6.9-mill operating levy lost by six points at the polls.

Receipts show the campaign spent $13,822.93 for political consulting services from Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing, Inc., of Toledo and $2,311.72 on navy blue T-shirts that sported their message.

No word on whether the consultants advised them to purchase the T-shirts, but the levy's downfall makes it clear neither the consultants nor the clothing worked out very well.

The campaign spent $211.21 for alcoholic beverages on Election Day, obviously to be used for an election night celebration. Unfortunately, voters delivered a sobering message to levy supporters.

The alcohol purchases were nothing approaching the high-priced and highly publicized cognac purchased by Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority officials a couple of years ago - the school district stuck with boxed wine and kegs of beer. But it still sends a curious message to the 38,000 students in the school district - that real parties include alcohol.

WHAT IS PERHAPS most interesting about the receipts is that much of the pro-levy campaign expenses were incurred through the school district.

A receipt dated March 9 shows the campaign used $644 worth of school district computer services.

Another receipt dated March 6 shows they spent $170 for rental of two "vehicle-mounted paging horn systems," commonly used by people who "go down the street and announce your message," said Elaine Thomas, who works at Great Lakes Sound, Inc., on Arco Drive in West Toledo. "A lot of organizations, like [groups sponsoring] hot rod events, will use them to get the word out," Ms. Thomas said.

March 6 was one day before the election, so the units were probably used for a pro-levy get-out-the-vote effort. The receipt says the units were rented by Start High School. While public funds were apparently used to secure the systems, the district did bill back to the campaign.

Receipts from February and March show they used the district's Pitney Bowes postage meter machine to the tune of $1,791.06. Other campaigns have to buy rolls of stamps.

They used the Toledo Public Schools print shop for "print work" and transportation services to the tune of $4,645.96. Some of the work was for labels, the receipts indicate, but most of it appears to be for copying or printing services.

The cost-per-unit, or page, is listed as a penny each. For labels, that is not too far out of line - the Lucas County Board of Elections charges slightly more, while Kinko's charges twice as much.

But the campaign got a real bargain for the copying services. It paid a penny each, the receipts show, while the board of elections office - another public agency that deals regularly with political campaigns - charges 15 cents per page.

"That seems to be the standard in the county. We have just gone along with that standard," said Antoinette Szuch, director of the elections board, who added that she believes the charge about covers the cost of the paper and machine wear-and-tear. Kinko's charges 8 cents per page.

It is no big deal if you are copying 10 pages. But the pro-levy campaign receipts indicate that it had 417,030 copies made or pages printed. At the board of elections, that would have cost $62,554.50 - an incredible two-thirds of all the money raised by the pro-levy committee to runs its campaign.

HAD it avoided the publicly funded printing presses and copiers and gone to Kinko's instead, the cost would still have been about $20,000, taking into consideration a volume discount the company offers. But that is still five times more than what the district billed the pro-levy committee.

In short, the pro-levy campaign finance report leaves a definite impression that the taxpayer-funded school district subsidized the campaign's effort to get even more taxes out of property owners.

A public opinion poll taken not long before the levy election showed that a majority of likely voters in the Toledo school district did not believe it was properly managing the tax money it was taking in. The pro-levy campaign report holds evidence that shows their doubts may have been well-founded.

Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Questions? Comments? Tips? He can be reached via e-mail at Fritz@theblade.com.



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