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Published: Saturday, 10/30/2004

School levies: City's public districts ask for funding

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Public Schools and Washington Local, the city's two biggest school districts, both see tough times ahead if their levies are not approved Tuesday.

The 34,000-student Toledo Public Schools is asking for renewal of an operating levy that generates $15.7 million a year. It was first approved in 1991 at 6.9 mills and renewed in 1998 at 6.6 mills. If approved Tuesday, it would be taxed at 5 mills.

The owner of a home valued at $75,000 pays $114 a year for the tax, district Treasurer James Fortlage said.

Eugene Sanders, Toledo Public Schools superintendent, said the property tax - Issue 35 on the ballot - is a critical component to providing educational services. If the tax levy is rejected, the district would have to cut $7 million from its current budget and $15.7 million from next year's budget.

"It would be devastating for the district if the levy were to fail," Mr. Sanders said. "I think we have worked extremely hard to prove our accountability to the community. We are the highest performing urban school district in the state of Ohio. The district has reduced staff by 440 people over the last two years; we have been fiscally responsible. We've been open with the community about the significant achievements as well as the challenges."

Mr. Sanders said the school district would likely make significant cuts, including more layoffs and possibly slashing student transportation, if the current levy is rejected.

Toledo Public Schools voters approved a three-year, 6.5-mill operating levy in November, 2003. That tax initially was rejected in August, but the district put it on the ballot for a second time.

Washington Local Schools, a 7,000-student district that serves Washington Township and parts of West and North Toledo, is requesting a dual-purpose, 3.9-mill levy.

The ballot issue is for both permanent improvements and operations. If approved, 2.9 mills would go to the general operating fund, and 1 mill would be set aside for capital improvements.

The continuing levy would cost $119 a year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000, said Jeffery Fouke, district treasurer.

If it fails, the district would be forced to postpone more than $8.5 million in permanent improvements, but there would not be any immediate cuts to educational service, Superintendent Mike Carmean said.

"We would be back again next year if it went down," Mr. Carmean said. "It would probably be for an increased amount [higher] than the 3.9 mills."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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