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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2005

Toledo voters send support for funding

Toledo School Board candidate Steven Steel, left, and Judge Tim Kuhlman of Toledo Municipal Court chat while awaiting election returns last night at the UAW Local 12 hall. Toledo School Board candidate Steven Steel, left, and Judge Tim Kuhlman of Toledo Municipal Court chat while awaiting election returns last night at the UAW Local 12 hall.

A renewal levy that has helped fund Toledo Public Schools infrastructure and equipment costs for two decades appeared on its way last night to approval by the voters for another five years.

"We did a pretty good job conveying to the public in a clear and concise way where the money would go," Superintendent Eugene Sanders said last night.

The 2.5-mill levy, which appeared on the ballot as Issue 37, had about 57 percent of the vote late last night.

The tax will generate just under $24.4 million over five years and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $38 a year.

District officials say the largest amount - $7.56 million - will go toward equipment, such as buses, vehicles, technology, and security. Another $7.35 million will fund "warm, safe, dry projects" at buildings.

TPS officials used that phrase, "warm, dry, and safe," throughout the campaign to promote the tax to convince voters it would pay for building upkeep, unforeseeable incidents such as roof leaks, and security measures.

"There may have been some tension in the beginning. In the last month, there was less difficulty as people began to understand it," Mr. Sanders said.

TPS is projecting a $19 million deficit next year, but if the levy had failed, Mr. Sanders said that shortfall would have grown to $24 million.

"That's roughly $5 million a year that would have had to come out of the budget and that would mean deeper and more severe cuts for the district," he said.

The levy allows for just over $2 million in contingency spending in case of major problems. Another portion -$5.283 million - is slated to go toward ancillary building project improvements, namely upgrades to stadium areas and other athletic facilities at Libbey, Scott, the Start facility at DeVilbiss, Waite, and Woodward high schools, following previous upgrades at Bowsher and Rogers high schools.

The plan also commits just over $4 million for water, sewer, transportation, and infrastructure improvements. Another $1.2 million contingency is included in that area.

The levy drew some criticism from three candidates running for the Toledo Board of Education. Christopher Myers, Darlene Fisher, and Robert Torres, who campaigned under the slogan "3 for change," challenged TPS on how the tax money would be used. They withdrew support for the tax when it was learned an earlier plan dedicated more than half of the tax money for brick facades and sloped roofs on the district's new buildings.

Mr. Torres and Ms. Fisher later said they would support the measure after TPS released the current spending plan, but Mr. Myers remained opposed to the levy. Last night he said he maintained his opposition because the TPS administration wasn't completely honest up front with how the money would be spent.

Board President Larry Sykes thanked voters last night and criticized Mr. Myers, Ms. Fisher, and Mr. Torres for jeopardizing public support for the levy.

"It is frustrating," he said. "We've made progress and then you have individuals who are unknown and unheralded who challenge our commitment. It's frustrating."

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