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Published: Sunday, 5/1/2005

TPS building plan

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters who live in the Toledo Public Schools district will be among those in 203 communities across Ohio who will be asked on Tuesday to approve tax levies for their schools.

Toledo Public is seeking a five-year, 2.5-mill levy that district leaders describe as a "substitute" for a five-year capital improvements tax that was first approved by voters in 1985.

The levy is not being described as a renewal or a replacement because its use is being expanded to include additional local costs incurred from the $821 million new schools construction program that is largely funded by the state of Ohio, officials said.

The nearly $8 million that would be raised annually from the levy would also help pay for maintenance of the district's buildings, upkeep of school buses, and the purchase of new computers.

The levy request received public support last week from members of Toledo City Council as well as presidents of the Medical College of Ohio and the University of Toledo.

MCO is working with TPS on the new Bowsher High School, while TPS and MCO are both partners in the Northwest Ohio Science Research and Technology Corridor, which is a plan of UT President Dan Johnson.

Members of the TPS financial oversight committee, which includes representatives of the business community, also have endorsed the levy. Before making that endorsement, committee members reviewed such things as a fiscal year 2004 state audit and other district records. They also toured the new Ottawa River Elementary School.

If approved, the levy request will cost the owner of a $75,000 home - the average cost of a home in the district - $2.25 more a month or $27 more annually, said James Fortlage, district treasurer. That will bring the total tax paid per year to $54.

One mill equals one dollar of tax for each $1,000 of a property's assessed valuation.

The levy request has received mixed reviews from within the community.

Both proponents and opponents of the tax request turned out at last week's school board meeting.

Members of the group Urban Coalition carried "Vote No" signs in protest of the levy. A group member, Steven Flagg, charged district leaders with misconstruing information about the levy.

One issue, Mr. Flagg said, is the pledge by the TPS district that the new project will allow for it to provide "landmark" buildings in the community - with brick facades and sloped roofs.

"You are not creating landmark buildings. You are tearing down landmarks," Mr. Flagg told board members.

Additional members of the Urban Coalition and other watchdog groups also addressed the board, concentrating many of their comments on the district's accountability and fiscal responsibility surrounding the levy request.

But a parent who spoke out about the levy told the board she believes it's a positive step for the district.

She pointed to the success at her school, Chase Elementary, which has experienced improvements in areas such as test scores and enrollment.

"I'm looking forward to our new building, new computers, and all the things Issue 4 will give to our students," Debrothia Taylor said.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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