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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

TPS, Washington Local seek levy approval

BY JAMES JOYCE III
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley speaks at a rally to support renovations to Scott High School. Money from one of the TPS issues on Tuesday s ballot would aid in renovating the Old West End school as well as several other buildings,  including Waite High in East Toledo. Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley speaks at a rally to support renovations to Scott High School. Money from one of the TPS issues on Tuesday s ballot would aid in renovating the Old West End school as well as several other buildings, including Waite High in East Toledo.
HERRALLONG / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge

Voters in the Toledo Public School District will have the opportunity to weigh in on two money requests Tuesday, while residents in the Washington Local School District will be asked to decide a single levy request for maintenance and operations.

For TPS, Issue 34 is a renewal of a levy that voters approved in 1991. Although the tax request was first approved 17 years ago as an emergency levy, under state law, it had to go before voters for renewal every five years. However, a recent change in that law extended the renewal period to every 10 years.

The levy doesn t expire until the end of next year, but officials placed it on the ballot earlier to avoid having levy requests before voters at every election.

The request is a 10-year, 4.8- mill renewal levy for operations. It will continue to bring the district $15.7 million annually without raising tax bills.

The money would be used to pay for basic operating expenses such as teachers salaries, textbooks, programs, and utilities.

The most recent approval expires at the end of 2009.

TPS Superintendent John Foley said that if the request is not approved by voters during this cycle, district officials would have to look at cutting about $7 million from their projected growing budget deficit.

[Passage] would give us stronger anticipation of what our projected needs are, Mr. Foley said.

Issue 35 is a measure to reauthorize spending money that voters approved in 2002. If approved, the current request, which will appear as a new bond issue, would fund $37 million in capital improvements that are not covered under the district s new building program.

The original bond issue was approved six years ago to cover 23 percent of the district s building program. The Ohio School Facilities Commission contributes the other 77 percent.

When the project was first approved, it was an $800 million undertaking, but it has since been scaled back to $640 million. The bonds that could be issued for the larger project totaled $183 million, but since they were tied directly to the state plan, they were reduced to about $146 million.

The $37 million request before voters on Tuesday represents the difference.

To finance the bonds, voters would be taxed an average of 0.7 mills over 28 years.

That money would be used to renovate buildings that are not part of the building program Waite High School; the former DeVilbiss High School, which houses the Toledo Technology Academy; the Old West End Academy, and Crossgates, Edgewater, Glendale-Feilbach, and Harvard elementary schools.

Some money also would be used to renovate Scott High School to make up the difference of what the state will not cover.

The bond will help us renovate and continue to build, Mr. Foley said. If it goes down, we won t be able to authorize the bonds ... or renovate the buildings.

Between the two TPS requests, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $147 annually for the operating levy and an average of $22 a year for the bond issue.

Voters in the Washington Local district will be asked to approve Issue 36, a dual-purpose maintenance and operating levy that would raise more than $4 million a year. Of that, $3,673,414 would go to the general fund to pay for day-to-day operating expenses and $419,819 would go toward improving buildings, grounds, and facilities.

The district relies heavily on local tax revenue, with more than 61 percent of the district s revenue coming from local sources. The majority of that is from businesses and industry.

However, a recent change in state law will erode the district s ability to collect revenue from business taxes by 2012. In 2005 the district collected $11.8 million in personal property tax, which is paid by businesses. That amount dropped to $7.3 million in 2008 and will be completely phased out by 2012.

This levy will help replace that, Superintendent Patrick Hickey said.

But with costs increasing a 70 percent spike in health care, 83 percent jump in building repairs, and more than a 150 percent increase in fuel costs since 2004 while eliminating a key revenue source, passing the levy would only provide a partial fix.

If approved, the tax measure would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $9.95 a month.

If voters turn down the levy request, Mr. Hickey said the district would need to either find another source of revenue, for which options are limited, or find a way to cut $12 million from the district s $72 million annual budget.

I m not trying to threaten cuts, Mr. Hickey said. It s just the reality of what we would be facing.

Contact James Joyce III at:jjoyce@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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