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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Candidate favors tax cut for teachers

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
McNamara McNamara
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Toledo City Council candidate Joe McNamara said yesterday that public school teachers are so important to the community, they should get a 50 percent city income tax cut to live in Toledo.

Mr. McNamara, one of six people on the Nov. 7 ballot for the three years remaining in the unfinished at-large term of former councilman Bob McCloskey, said he also would extend the benefit to police officers and firefighters if they chose to live in the city.

McCloskey, a Democrat, resigned in a bribery scandal in May and is serving a 27-month sentence for state and federal bribery convictions.

Mr. McNamara said his plan is aimed at retaining Toledo's middle class and reversing the population decline.

He also proposed offering a 25 percent credit on the water bill. He estimated it would save the average Toledo teacher about $610 a year.

The proposal, if enacted and taken by everyone eligible, would cut city revenues by more than $2 million a year.

Mr. McNamara said he had no immediate proposals for $2 million in cuts.

He denied the proposal was aimed at encouraging the endorsements of the politically influential teacher, police, and firefighter unions.

Firefighters Local 92, which represents about 450 firefighters, has endorsed Mr. McNamara. The Toledo Federation of Teachers has endorsed one of his Democratic opponents, Robert Vasquez.

The Toledo Police Patrolman's Association has not yet made an endorsement in the council election.

"Teachers make a profound difference in the lives of young people. In our society, they are underpaid and underappreciated," Mr. McNamara said.

The city has about 450 unionized firefighters with an average base salary of $57,533, and 560 unionized police officers with average base pay of $51,895, according to information provided by the city.

Toledo Public Schools had 1,855 classroom teachers last school year, who were paid an average of $49,859 each, and Washington Local had 459 teachers, with an average annual salary of $50,900, according to the Ohio Department of Education Web site.

Based on those numbers, a 50 percent cut in Toledo's 2.25 percent income tax could cost the city $1.9 million a year. A 25 percent cut in a $148-a-year water bill would cost the utilities department about $123,000.

About 58 percent of Toledo teachers live outside the school district, and about 465 of Toledo's approximately 3,000 employees live outside the city.

One of Mr. McNamara's opponents, endorsed Republican Dave Schulz, noted that Mayor Carty Finkbeiner recently suggested incentives for the same group of people to remain in the city.

"Sounds like another copycat job by Joe," Mr. Schulz said. "He should run for school board and let the serious candidates vie for City Council."

Appointed Councilman Lourdes Santiago, who is endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party to retain the seat, said Mr. McNamara should make his suggestions about teacher salaries to the board of education.

"This harebrained idea to cut city revenues would also cut police, fire, and important city services like trash collection," Ms. Santiago said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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