Election fortunes fell in the favor of Toledo Public Schools on Tuesday, as the district reversed a string of recent ballot failures by persuading voters to renew its operating levy.
Voters approved the 6.5-mill, five-year tax renewal request — Issue 24 on the ballot — by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $150 a year, and provides the district with about $13.8 million annually.
It was last approved in 2008 with about 61 percent of the vote.
Dozens of levy and TPS supporters gathered outside the McMaster Center at the Main Library downtown as results came in. Before votes were counted, district leaders expressed cautious optimism, saying they’d gotten mostly positive reactions during neighborhood walks, community meetings, and one-on-one conversations.
School board President Brenda Hill said in past levy campaigns, there’s been either organized opposition or hints of reticence or outright hostility, but she heard mostly enthusiasm this year.
PHOTO GALLERY: TPS levy renewal party
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Many pointed to new Superintendent Romules Durant’s leadership and energetic campaign for the levy. An East Toledo native, Mr. Durant worked long hours to build support for the levy and the district and crafted a message of a new direction within TPS.
Kevin Dalton, Toledo Federation of Teachers president, said Mr. Durant’s energy has been infectious and has increased staff morale. Mr. Dalton praised him for supporting teachers’ efforts within the district.
“We currently have a superintendent who recognizes those actions and encourages promoting them,” Mr. Dalton said.
Once early returns started to stream in, levy supporters’ spirits were boosted more. Vote ratios in favor of passage stayed mostly constant through the evening. Mr. Durant led the group in “TPS Proud” chants. The superintendent, who often wears shirts embroidered with TPS on the collar and cuffs, said the district soon would have “this entire city walking around with TPS on their collar.”
“This is bigger than just TPS. This is about Toledo as a city revitalizing into an area of prominence.”
The successful campaign reversed a string of ballot-box losses. Last November, a new 4.9-mill levy that would have brought $13.3 million annually lost 52.45 percent to 47.55 percent.
Funds from the renewal levy will, among other things, help sustain math and reading programs in TPS’ lowest-performing schools, now paid for with expiring federal grants. The levy’s failure would have forced immediate cuts, likely leading to larger class sizes.
Because the levy is a renewal and not an increase, taxpayers will remain eligible for a state subsidy of as much as 12.5 percent on their tax bills.