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Published: Sunday, 5/21/2006

Springfield levy tips toward loss

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Narrow victory turned into even narrower defeat for a Springfield Local School District levy yesterday, according to updated but still unofficial vote results from the May 2 election.

And Toledo City Council District 3 candidate Mike Craig kept his lead over incumbent Taylor Balderas - but won't get to take his seat Tuesday after a representative of Ms. Balderas refused to waive a five-day waiting period to start the automatic recount.

The Lucas County Board of Elections yesterday counted provisional ballots to complete the canvassing of the May 2 vote, Director Jill Kelly said. The board is scheduled to meet to certify the results at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Kristina White, spokesman for Springfield Local, said a previously unreported precinct was what tipped the vote count from a 16-vote lead to 2,808 to 2,801, a seven-vote loss for the 3.5-mill operating levy.

Ken Musch, vice president of the Springfield Local Board of Education, said, "We're extremely disappointed that seven votes could have such a negative effect on the school district. We felt really good going into the election because our test scores are up and the district has been doing really well. But we also understand that the economy here is tight and the price of gas probably had an effect on how people voted," Mr. Musch said.

Mr. Musch said that if the loss stands, the district will proceed with another levy request in August. "If we don't, we're looking at a $2 1/2 million shortfall and that will force us to make cuts in our daily operations," he said.

The continuing levy would bring in about $2.5 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $107 a year in taxes.

In the Toledo council special election, Mr. Craig saw his victory margin drop to five votes over Ms. Balderas, or 1,298 to 1,293, after 28 provisional ballots were counted. The unofficial margin had been 12 votes.

Ms. Kelly said state law mandates an automatic recount after a five-day wait unless the candidates agree to waive the delay and do an immediate recount.

Ms. Kelly said Mr. Craig agreed to the waiver, but Domenic Montalto, who represented Ms. Balderas, declined the waiver. Mr. Montalto is executive director of the Lucas County Democratic Party, which supported Ms. Balderas. Mr. Craig is a Democrat but was not endorsed.

The winner will serve the 20 months remaining in the District 3 term representing East Toledo and parts of the city's south end.

Whether Mr. Craig or Ms. Balderas is in the District 3 chair when council convenes at 4 p.m. Tuesday could make a big difference. Council is set to vote to fill an at-large council seat vacated May 2 by former Councilman Bob McCloskey's resignation.

The Democratic Party has endorsed Lourdes Santiago, an ally of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. But at least two Democrats on council are backing Bob Vasquez, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in November as an ally of former Mayor Jack Ford.

Ms. Balderas, 23, could not be reached yesterday for comment. She is expected to support Ms. Santiago. Mr. Craig, 50, indicated he supports Mr. Vasquez.

Blade staff writer Karamagi Rujumba contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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