Toledo Public Schools will stick to the “not a new tax” and “we've made significant gains” messages during the run-up to the Aug. 5 levy vote, but two top district officials acknowledged during a taping of The Editors television program it will be a challenge to get the measure passed.
Peter Silverman, president of the Board of Education, said the timing of the district's levy vote was working against its success with some voters.
“The economy's been bad for a number of years, and there are a number of people who can't afford to keep paying taxes. I'm very sympathetic to them. Property tax is a horrible way to finance schools,” he said. “We're appealing to people's generosity and to think about kids. When we come back again and again, it gets hard.”
Superintendent Eugene Sanders said the teachers' union's refusal to accept an insurance co-payment for office visits and prescriptions was an issue with some voters.
“Everybody you talk to in town has some form of co-payment, and everybody understands it,” Dr. Sanders said. “People may not understand curriculum and technology, but they understand co-pays because they all experience it.”
If the teachers had taken the co-payment, jobs would have been saved, Mr. Silverman said.
“I think we've got to be straight, it doesn't help,” he said of the teachers' union's refusal to change their insurance plan. “We do have a perception problem, but I would anticipate that early next year we're going to have some kind of resolution to the problem.”
The two were questioned by Marilou Johanek of The Blade's editorial board. The Editors will be broadcast at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.
Other questions covered a recent poll that showed the 6.5-mill, five-year operating levy in a virtual dead heat with voters. But the poll showed voters who had heard about successes in the district and who learned the levy is a renewal, not a new tax, could be convinced to support the measure, Dr. Sanders said.
“This is not a tax increase, and your taxes will not go up. Even if the valuation of your home has gone up, the taxes you pay to Toledo Public Schools won't.
“We've made significant improvements” in proficiency test scores and reform, Dr. Sanders said. “I think once those messages get out, that we'll be in a much better position.”