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Published: Wednesday, 10/20/2004

Port, school requests seem poised for win

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Despite a sluggish local economy, two money measures on the Nov. 2 ballot appear headed for victory, a new poll shows.

Voters appear willing to renew a five-year, 0.4-mill property tax levy for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority as well as the five-year, 5-mill levy for the Toledo Public School District, according to a Blade-Zogby poll conducted Friday and Saturday. The poll of 700 likely county voters has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

The Port Authority levy leads among all county respondents, 65 percent to 19 percent who said they oppose it. Sixteen percent said they were unsure.

The school measure is leading by a similar percentage: 60 percent support it, 30 percent oppose it, and 10 percent are still on the fence.

"Those are pretty good numbers," port authority spokesman Brian Schwartz said. "We have a track record of success over the past few years in terms of job creation and developing the region's transportation assets. It looks like voters might be realizing that.

"We are cautiously optimistic," he said "The poll that really counts is the one taken on election day."

Money from the levy will be split three ways, Mr. Schwartz said. About $350,000 will be dedicated to "neighborhood development groups" around the county who will apply to the port for money to help pay for improvement projects - such things as streetscapes or other construction projects. Another $1 million will go to the Regional Growth Partnership, an economic development agency that operates under the umbrella of the port, and $900,000 will pay for capital improvements.

The RGP is based in Lucas County, but helps spur economic development in an 11-county area. Voters inside the city of Toledo were most enthusastic toward the levy, the poll shows, as 68 percent of respondents there said they support passage. Outside the city, the measure is supported by 59 percent.

The poll shows it is hard to find opposition to the measure in a region hungry for economic development. Even among those age 65 or older, 56 percent said they support the measure. Sixty-eight percent of men support it, while 63 percent of women said they will approve it.

The school measure is a renewal of a levy that raises $15.7 million a year for operations. A home valued at $75,000 pays $114 a year for the tax, district Treasurer James Fortlage said.

"It's very heartening," board member Peter Silverman said. "My sense is that voters are pleased that our test scores are up, and we're making changes and trying hard to balance our budget. This is operating money and a renewal measure, so the millage will actually go down, but the money [that the district will receive] stays the same."

Mr. Silverman said the district decided that, in a tough economy, it wasn't the right time to seek a replacement levy, which would have meant more money for the district. And, he said, it appears voters are willing to reward the board for its frugality.

"Our sense was, in this economy, it just wasn't right to ask people for more money. We are not giving people raises. We have eliminated hundreds of jobs."

Older voters said they were a little less willing to support the measure, as just 50 percent of those age 65 or older said they would back the school levy. It found its most ardent support among those under age 30, where 79 percent said they would vote in favor. Sixty-three percent of men support the school levy, while 56 percent of women agreed.

Voters have been kind to the school district. Last year it passed both an operating levy and a construction levy that raises $184 million for renovation or replacement of most of the district's schools.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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